Moving Forward with My Community

Published: December 6, 2021

Categories: Artist Stories | Artists Supporting Artists | Featured

I owe so much to the arts and arts community. As an artist, I’ve been able to build lifelong friendships, engage with a community that helped me develop my artistic career, and gain new ways of understanding the world around me. Art has given me the space and tools to explore questions I have about my mental health and identity. 

Thanks to the support of my family, I graduated from Gonzaga University with a fine arts degree, and lived and made art in Spokane, WA during the 2017 and 2018 wildfires that broke records because of hazardous air quality. 


Grace Nakahara with her artwork


During the 2018 wildfires I did not have to evacuate, but when the Air Quality Index (AQI) hit 267, I was unable to leave my house, attend class, or go to my studio to paint. Both my physical and mental health suffered. Since then, Spokane has hit a record 479 on the AQI, more than 13 times the health-based standard outlined by the Enivronmental Protection Agency (EPA.) In 2007, I helped my grandparents recover what they could when their house was hit by a flash flood in the Hood Canal area. Luckily, they both made it out okay, but my grandparents still get anxious whenever the weather turns. Disasters are more than a fire or a flood – their effects disseminate through communities in unexpected ways and leave lasting consequences long after they are gone. 

After graduating from Gonzaga in 2019, I returned home to Seattle and was brought into Artist Trust as an intern. Earlier this year I was hired back as the COVID-19 Relief Fund Coordinator and have since transitioned into a permanent role on staff as a Program Coordinator. While in these positions, I’ve connected with artists impacted by the pandemic and have seen how an unexpected disaster can completely uproot one’s livelihood. Both natural and man-made disasters are becoming more common in Washington, and I see artists across the state on the front lines of mutual aid, resource sharing, and creative problem solving when it comes to these evolving emergencies. 

I want to serve my community to the best of my ability. My job has allowed me to work closely with artists across Washington State. The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed that the already pressing need for emergency assistance for artists has grown these past few years. Thanks to the support of my team at Artist Trust, I am training alongside a network of arts responders to become a Crisis Analysis & Mitigation coach through a program with the National Coalition of Arts’ Preparedness & Emergency Response (NCAPER). The cohort shares best practices based on our own experiences working with different disasters and arts communities so that we can better serve our own. The work has shown me the importance of the arts, not only in emergency response but recovery. 


the dream where you take off your own face2019, Oil on Canvas, 12×15″


Moving forward, I want to integrate my experience with NCAPER into my work at Artist Trust by traveling to and speaking with arts communities across Washington state. I believe that by building relationships in areas of the state that have been historically under-resourced, we can create not only a safety net for those in crises, but more opportunities for artists overall. 




Grace Nakahara was born and raised in Seattle, WA. She’s a mixed-race painter and horror film fanatic. Her passion for all things spooky stems from her research of representation in mediaHer current work explores self-representation and performative behaviorShe graduated from Gonzaga University in 2019 with degrees in Creative Writing and Fine Art. Originally a Program Intern for Artist Trust, she worked for the org as a contractor, the COVID-19 Relief Fund Coordinator and now is proud to be working on the team as a Program Coordinator.