Spotlight on Naomi Strom-Avila, City of Tacoma Coordinator

Naomi Strom-Avila does an incredible job of coordinating our City of Tacoma, WA Exhibition and this year was no exception! With more than 130 pieces by 79 artists, Naomi manages everything from the intake of the artwork to getting it all displayed at the two municipal buildings downtown. This year, in honor of their fifth year with the program, Naomi was presented the NAP's Fifth Anniversary Award for all her hard work over the years.
Namoi started with the National Arts Program® back in 2006 as an assistant and has since transitioned into an amazing coordinator. Each year, Naomi has made small, but important improvements to the way she runs the program. In addition, she was one of the first NAP coordinators to utilize online registrations to make the process easier for participants.
Naomi has a tremdenous passion for the National Arts Program® and we are pleased to feature her as our NAP Spotlight for the month of October!  
Q. What makes the National Arts Program® different than any other art exhibit displayed in Tacoma?
A. This is the only exhibit that is dedicated to City of Tacoma employees. It is a unique opportunity for artists of all abilities and training to show their work in the same location and in the same format.
Q. Why do you feel that displaying employee artwork is important?
A. Our yearly show has grown into a very loved event here at the City of Tacoma. Those who submit work to show feel honored to share their work with their co-workers and the public, and those who work in the buildings where it is displayed love seeing the art enliven the building. There are invariably comments of amazement about pieces, shock that a co-worker created a certain piece when they had no idea that person was an artist, and of course regret when we take the show down.
Q. How have employees and their families responded to the opportunity to display their artwork?
A. We have an ever-growing list of employees who have participated in this program. Some of the most touching stories I hear are of families where maybe one family member submitted work one year and then, after seeing the show, their other family members jump on board the following year. I’ve had families of 5 and 6 people submit work for at least 4 years in a row now; for them, it is truly a family event.
Q. Why do you think displaying artwork in a city government setting is so important?
A. I think it is important to be reminded daily of how important the arts (including visual, literary, performing, and interdisciplinary) are to who we are personally, as a city, as a culture. The arts have had a major impact on the revitalization of our City and this is one way to exemplify the impact the arts are having on the lives of our citizens.
Q. Do visitors to the building respond to the exhibit?
A. Absolutely! I’ve heard great comments from visitors walking through the building. We’ve even had some people go so far as to write in to the city to say how much they enjoyed the artwork while they were at the Municipal building on other business. It’s encouraging to know that the show made a big enough impact on a visitor that they would take the time to write up a note about it.
Q. How has utilizing online registration made the process easier for you?
A. We created and started using an online registration form 2 years ago and it has been a lifesaver. We have a very small staff so whatever we can do to save time is appreciated. By having applicants fill out an online form, we are not only saving hours of our time to type all the information into a spreadsheet, we are also reducing the risk of typos, saving the applicants a stamp, and making it very accessible 24 hours a day. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.
Q. Can you tell us how art has had a positive impact on your personal life?
A. I have the honor to live art everyday. Not only is it part of my daily job for the City of Tacoma (arts funding programs, public art projects, special events and programming, etc…) but I’m also married to a graphic designer. It is very central to our life, what we do in our free time, and the basis for looking at arts-integrated educational opportunities for our daughter.
Q. How did you get started in the art field or have you always been involved in the arts? Are you an artist yourself?
A. I’ve loved art since I was a kid – I actually have a paragraph and drawing I made in third grade hanging in my cubicle that talks about how art was my favorite subject in school. I went on to get a bachelors degree in photography. From there I taught arts integrated curriculum in 20+ Chicago Public Schools and am currently working in the field of arts administration for the City of Tacoma.
Q. What is your favorite aspect of the National Arts Program®?
Aside from the intensive work involved, I really love hanging up the artwork every year. We display the show on multiple floors of the Municipal building and Public Utilities building and I get to hear dozens of very positive comments every year from people walking through the building, some employees and some general public, about how wonderful it is to have the artwork back again. They are genuinely happy to have artwork hung in the building; it truly enlivens the spaces.