Alice Rooney, Arts Advocate

Long-time Queen Anne resident Alice Rooney has made major contributions to Seattle-area arts and culture, as administrator of Allied Arts of Seattle and of Pilchuck Glass School.

A graduate of Ballard High School (1943) and the University of Washington, Alice began her career in New York City, where she spent three years working for Mutual Broadcasting (a radio network) as a writer of radio commercials and newsletters. She returned to Seattle to take a job with Wallace V. MacKay Advertising Co., located in Seattle’s Globe Building, and in 1950 began part-time employment as Executive Secretary with the American Institute of Architects Seattle Chapter — a MacKay client. At AIA she worked with activist architects including Fred Bassetti, Ibsen Nelsen, and Victor Steinbrueck.

In 1960, Alice began nearly two decades of work with Allied Arts of Seattle, again with activists engaged in Seattle’s artistic and cultural scene.   With a Board of Directors that in the 1960s included Robert Jackson (“Bob”) Block, Mary Coney, Peggy Golberg, Anne Gould Hauberg, Janice Niemi, Paul Schell, Jerry Thonn, and Rae Tufts (among others), Allied Arts successfully and prominently promoted public funding for the arts, keeping billboards off the freeways, and the long-term campaign to save the Pike Place Market — and significant historic buildings — from proposed demolition.

Alice Rooney with Paul Schell at the Allied Arts annual meeting, 1979. Photo by Roger Schreiber, University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections

In 1976, Alice took a leave from her Allied Arts job for a year in Washington, DC to edit the Artists/Craftsmen Information Bulletin (4000 addresses, every 2 weeks), returning to Seattle and Allied Arts for another three years. In 1980, she became Director of the Pilchuck Glass School, founded by Dave Chihuly, with locations in Seattle and the Skagit Valley. In 1990 she left Pilchuck for work as Director of the Glass Art Society then in Corning, New York, relocating its headquarters to Seattle.

Her colleagues often cite Alice Rooney’s supportive leadership skills as a primary factor in the cultural achievements of the organizations she has worked with over the years. R. M. Campbell’s 2014 book Stirring Up Seattle: Allied Arts in the Civic Landscape begins with its first chapter “Alice Rooney.”

Alice and her husband Bob Rooney, with their children Robin and Scott, lived on Queen Anne from 1967 to 2014 at 2602 Queen Anne Ave N, before moving to a place on the Counterbalance.