Vera was founded in 2001 by James Keblas, Shannon Stewart, and Kate Becker. Keblas and Stewart were studying in the Netherlands and based The Vera Project off of the volunteer-fueled club, VERA Groningen. VERA comes from the Latin phrase ‘Veri Et Recti Amici,’ which means ‘True and Sincere Friends.’
Vera was founded in response to the dire lack of all-ages popular music concerts in Seattle. At the time legislation called the Teen Dance Ordinance made all-ages concerts prohibitively expensive and difficult to produce, leaving youth under 21 with no legal means to experience and participate in popular music. Vera’s first two years were spent producing all-ages concerts in rented halls with the support of the music industry, local foundations, the City of Seattle, and hundreds of volunteers.
In 2002, Vera moved to a full-time space in downtown Seattle, and legislation was passed to ease the restrictions on all-ages music. The new full-time space allowed Vera to expand its programming beyond concerts to include an art gallery, silkscreen studio, sound engineering classes, internships, breakdance classes, musicians’ resources, and much more. Volunteerism continued to thrive. Vera also expanded its funding base to reduce dependence on public funds and include more private support. When downtown redevelopment forced Vera to leave its space in 2006, the organization launched the Viva Vera capital campaign to create a custom-designed venue in the Northwest Rooms at Seattle Center which boasts a 362-capacity showroom and dedicated gallery, silkscreen studio and recording studio.
February 2007 marked the opening of Vera’s first long-term, full-time home, allowing Vera to continue its tradition of innovative all-ages music and arts programming. Over 150,000 people have walked through Vera’s doors in the organization’s first nine years, and thousands of volunteers have shaped the organization. Vera’s volunteer-fueled participatory approach has garnered national and international attention, and Vera has served as a model and an inspiration for many all-ages organizations in other cities, including in Reno, NV and Olympia, WA. Vera successfully carved out a space for youth-driven music and art in Seattle, and has become part of a larger national movement defining a culture of all-ages, participatory music and arts.