2014 Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award - Visual Arts
When Beth Barrett joined the Seattle International Film Festival in 2003, she arrived with a passion to share universal stories with people of all ages from all corners of the globe. Today, because of Beth’s vision and expertise, The Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) screens more than 450 films during the 25-day festival and welcomes over 150,000 film enthusiasts each season. SIFF is now the largest and most comprehensive film festival in the United States.
During her time at Community High School, Beth was an active Thespian taking part in plays, musicals, and chorus, as well as both concert and swing choirs. She landed on the honor roll all four years, was named an Illinois Scholar, and still found time for German Club and basketball.
Beth received a B.A. degree in English Literature in just three years and a Master’s Degree in Renaissance Art History, both from the University of Iowa. In 1996 she earned an Associate’s Degree in Graphic Imaging and Printing Technology from Seattle Community College.
In Seattle she worked as a baker, bartender, digital prepress technician and studied library science, all while volunteering at SIFF. When a golden opportunity opened for her as programming assistant at the Sydney Film Festival in Australia, Beth discovered her passion: Connecting audiences to international film.
“Film is about connection, and the connection of the filmmaker to the audience. That connection is made up of details. Make sure the details never get overlooked in favor of the spotlight.”
Beth returned to Seattle in 2003 to accept the position of Program Manager at SIFF. Her mission was to elevate the city’s festival into an internationally respected forum showcasing a diverse offering of films that would speak to people of all ages and cultures.
Beth is moved by the universal stories that illuminate the depth and diversity of the human condition, stories that can be uniquely and poignantly revealed in a documentary examining the genocide of millions of Indonesians in the 1950’s, or the migration habits of Pacific Northwest Salmon, or a short film about the futuristic exploration of a world in which time travel is possible.
"It is through the art of film that we foster a community that is more informed, aware, and alive." B. Barrett
In 2007 Beth collaborated with SIFF’s new Education Coordinator to create SIFF Future Wave, which brings screenwriters and filmmakers into local Seattle classrooms to work with public school students. The following year Beth was named Director of Programming. She soon secured SIFF’s status as an Academy Award qualifying festival for short film and launched new programs to spotlight filmmakers from Africa, South America, Eastern Europe, and Southeast Asia.
With Beth Barrett’s leadership SIFF has grown and solidified its place as a valued resource for Seattle public schools and a revered international showcase for the art of film. Her knowledge and critical abilities have earned her a respected place on film juries and panels in Palm Springs, Cleveland, Vancouver, and Berlin.