Dan Harpole, 51, played key role in arts
Dan Harpole was a champion of the arts. Mr. Harpole, executive director of the Idaho Commission on the Arts and former chairman of the Washington...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Dan Harpole was a champion of the arts.
Mr. Harpole, executive director of the Idaho Commission on the Arts and former chairman of the Washington State Arts Commission, died from cancer Dec. 29 at his brother's home in Portland. He was 51.
Weeks before his death, Mr. Harpole learned that he would be awarded the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Chairman's Medal to recognize his service to the arts in the United States.
"He educated public-policy makers about the importance of the arts to the fabric of community life. He energized public-sector investments in artists and arts organizations, and created opportunities for greater citizen participation in the arts," said John Ostrout, the NEA's director of state and regional partnerships.
Mr. Harpole not only brought the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies conference to Idaho for the first time but also encouraged that state's Republican congressional delegation to support recent increases in NEA funding.
Born and raised in Portland, Mr. Harpole was the seventh of 10 children. He attended the University of Redlands in Southern California, then transferred to The Evergreen State College in Olympia. He graduated in 1982.
Mr. Harpole moved to Friday Harbor and worked at the Whale Museum, then relocated to Port Townsend.
In Port Townsend, he sold firewood and took on odd jobs until the mid-1980s when he was hired at Centrum, a nonprofit arts and education organization at Fort Worden State Park. Mr. Harpole began his eight-year tenure at Centrum as part of the production crew and worked his way up to assistant director.
"I never met anyone who didn't like Dan," said Joseph Wheeler, founding director of Centrum. "Perhaps his strongest quality was to be able to bring people together. He was a great mediator. He had the wonderful skill of bringing divergent points of view into a common focus."
Mr. Harpole served on the Port Townsend City Council from 1994 to 1996 and on the Jefferson County Commission from 1997 to 2000.
In 1995, then-Gov. Gary Locke appointed Mr. Harpole to the Washington State Arts Commission, and he was elected chairman in 1998.
Kris Tucker, the commission's executive director, described Mr. Harpole as enthusiastic, well-organized and an accomplished speaker who always voiced his opinion — even if it was unpopular.
"Dan's career was really about public service through the arts," she said. "He talked about the arts as a way of resolving community problems, as a healthy alternative for youth."
Mr. Harpole moved to Boise, Idaho, in 2000 to become executive director of the Idaho Commission on the Arts.
Mr. Harpole is survived by his 12-year-old son, Hunter, and his 7-year-old daughter, Fiona, both of Boise; three sisters; five brothers; and numerous nieces and nephews.
A service for Mr. Harpole was held in Boise. A memorial in Port Townsend will take place at Fort Worden on March 17.
Remembrances may be sent to Harpole College Fund for Mr. Harpole's children, at Frontier Bank, 2200 W. Sims Way, Port Townsend, WA 98368.
Judy Chia Hui Hsu: 206-464-3315 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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