Supporter Spotlight: Faizel Khan

When you support our fall fund drive before December 31, you join fellow donors like Faizel Khan who believe that Washington State artists should have the resources and funding to take risks, fuel change, and lead our creative communities bravely into the future. Give now to join Faizel, and learn more about how your business can support Washington State artists!

If the Artist Trust staff is leaving the office for a meeting, chances are they’re headed to Café Argento. There, owner Faizel Khan is famous for two things—breakfast sandwiches and his unflagging support of nonprofit arts organizations in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, including Artist Trust. As a donor and supporter of the annual Artist Trust Benefit Art Auction, Faizel feels strongly that business owners who invest in their communities reap the rewards of a stronger neighborhood—and more regulars.

Artist Trust sat down with Faizel—on Argento’s patio, of course – to talk about why his business supports artists and Artist Trust.

How did you come to be such a big supporter of arts organizations?
A good friend of mine got me started in the business and told me that if you’re going to be in a community running a business, you need to give back even if it’s $50 a year. We’ve been a sponsor of Velocity going on 12 years and just being in this neighborhood, close to artists, I found out that Artist Trust was close. I decided if I was in a position to help, I would, which for me is donating meeting space, time, discounts for artists, sponsoring shows, buying ad space.

If you’re a business owner and you spend enough time in the community, you get to meet people and get to know their stories. If you’re in a position lucky enough to help them, even if it’s not financially, just with time or someone to talk to or a little bit of mentoring, you want to do it. You guys support me; all the writers, artists, painters, tattoo artists and musicians that come in my shop are supporting me so it’s more beneficial to our community to support as many people as I can.

You make a point of hiring dancers to work behind the counter at Argento. After spending so much time with developing artists, how do you think businesses can support them as they build their careers?
I’ve seen so many different sides of someone coming to Seattle and just trying to get established, get friends, get a job, get housing. We definitely need funding [for artists] and we need a lot of the people who enjoy our community, who live here, to also invest here. Artists need a lot of flexibility. I think employers need to be thoughtful of who they hire and why they hire them. When I hire [dancers], we have an understanding that when you’re here, you do a great job, and when you’re not here, go be an amazing dancer. If people are not in a position to donate money, be it any of the businesses around here or developers who have space that they’re sitting on, they can donate the time and the space to artists, for no money. The artists I know would work around anyone’s schedule just to get an hour in a space.

How have you seen Artist Trust benefit our creative community?
There are so many people that I’ve sent your way, saying, “These people will be able to help you and if they can’t, they’ll know a place to turn you to. Artist Trust is the best starting point for you.” You have a great reputation in the community and you cast a really wide net in terms of the artists that you help.

What do you feel is the benefit to your business of supporting Artist Trust?
I think of it this way—whether someone is in our neighborhood once a week, or here to get a haircut once a month, everybody here is a regular on their schedule. We’re building our community that way. 99% of our people are regulars—our loyalty is to them. And if they’re a regular, their word of mouth will get out there.

Why should people support individual artists right now?
Art is being made, distributed, followed, challenging all kinds of ideas—more than ever, all art needs to be shown and made and protected, because so many things are being silenced.