In an effort to help unite Bellevue's diverse residents, the city has been researching for several years the possible development of a cross-cultural center that will bring people together around shared intercultural experiences. This effort launched in the fall of 2023, with residents sharing their visions for a Cross-Cultural Center Without Walls, where events take place around the city.
These cross-cultural experiences will be designed around active intercultural engagement, learning and exchange. The intent is to create interactions between people and groups from different racial, ethnic, cultural and other backgrounds.
Studies between 2018 and 2022 indicated community support for cross-cultural programming in Bellevue, and that such programming should be “community-led, city-supported” – directed by local organizations with support from city staff and resources.
Planning our Cross-Cultural Future
A new, stand-alone facility for cross-cultural programming could take years to plan and finance, and is not part of the city’s short-term plans. In the meantime, the city is moving forward to create cross-cultural programming in partnership with a variety of cultural stakeholders as the cross-cultural center without walls travels throughout the city.
Community members joined in the planning of the Cross-Cultural Center Without Walls at two workshops at Odle Middle School in the fall of 2023, on Sept. 19 and Oct. 17. At the first community workshop, participants contributed many ideas for activities and programs they would like to experience at the traveling center (video of meeting). Participants at the second workshop identified ideas and themes they believed are most important for the Cross-Cultural Center without Walls.
For the third workshop, on Wednesday, Dec. 6, organizations interested in presenting a program or event for the Cross-Cultural Center are invited to start exploring partnerships and developing project ideas. The workshop will be 6-8 p.m. at the commons in Sammamish High School, 100 140th Ave. SE.
Staff will share findings from the first two workshops, including the key ideas generated from over 125 participants. Organizations will learn how to submit proposals for cross-cultural projects. Dinner will be provided. Please register.
Events and Activities
In the fall and winter of 2023-24, local nonprofits will be invited to apply for funds to create events, programs and other activities that align to the priorities identified by the community in previous meetings. Hosted in various spaces, this programming will help us see what kinds of activities could be housed in a dedicated building.
Organizations already holding cross-cultural events can share those with us. They can be added as Cross-Cultural Center activities. The more opportunities for cross-cultural exchange, the better.
The 2014 Diversity Advantage Plan envisioned a cross-cultural facility with a mission to “educate, celebrate, challenge and inspire Bellevue to be a welcoming and inclusive community that embraces diversity.”
In 2016, the City Council approved a series of studies to assess the need for cross-cultural programming in Bellevue and explore the feasibility of a cross-cultural center.
- Shaping our Inclusive Future: Cross-Cultural Programming Public Outreach Study (October 2018)
- Cross-Cultural Feasibility Assessment (November 2020)
- Cross-Cultural Feasibility Study Phase 3 Report (May 2022)
The studies, which involved considerable outreach, reflected the thinking and experience of hundreds of diverse Bellevue residents, and concluded there was a strong demand and need for more cross-cultural engagement opportunities here. Furthermore, the studies concluded that this project would need to be community-led, possibly by a local nonprofit organization, and city-supported.
In 2022, the council directed staff to move forward with the development of cross-cultural programming and to explore possible nonprofit partners. Funding for the effort was included in the city's 2023-24 budget.