by Daniel Burnett
– The Capitol Hill Times –
From its inception as a wine bar to its current incarnation as a multi-use facility, Vermillion has maintained a relaxing atmosphere, while frequently hosting an eclectic range of events. Diana Adams, the founder and owner of Vermillion, has molded the constantly evolving space around her initial vision.
“The space was very unique and actually fit perfectly with what I was thinking. I always wanted a place that had the gallery prominent to give the respect to the art and not to be considered an afterthought, [while] the brick in the back was classic for a more relaxing bar-like environment.” Adams said.
Vermillion currently offers a wide range of amenities including a full bar, a modest self-prepared menu, live performances and, of course, a gallery space that rotates hangings on a monthly basis.
The diverse nature of the establishment is reflected in its cliental. Vermillion first gained community recognition as a quiet place to enjoy a conversation and, although activity has picked up, that characteristic has remained.
“I’ve always been inspired by family run places out East… places where the owner is the one that gets up and makes the bread or the noodles that day, or waits on customers at 5:30 in the morning.” Adams said, reflecting on how her predilections helped shape the manifestation of Vermillion.
Adams was born in Los Angeles, in a household that both supported and practiced creative activities. She has been exposed to a great deal of culture throughout her life, including her years as a teenager in upstate New York and as a college student in Flagstaff, Ariz. Her formative and college years provided her with an artistic awareness and drive that would lead her into flexing her own creative muscles.
“When I moved [to Seattle] in 1992 I started out as a photographer in editorial work for local and national magazines, like “Spin” and “Rolling Stone”… and I was freelance, so it’s hard to make a living that way.” Adams said.
After a handful of odd jobs and a foray into the .com world, Adams moved into a storefront space on 12th Avenue and Pine Street. She initially used her residence as a place to showcase her work, yet began to curate other artists in 2001. She named the place “Aftermath” in recognition of the September 11, 2001 attacks and the concern that she had for her sister in New York.
Adams drew inspiration from smaller co-ops and inter-disciplinary spaces such as Consolidated Works and Secluded Alley Works. Her familiarity as a curator grew and, after a number of years had past, Adams began to outgrow Aftermath.
“That street started to get more popular. I decided right then that I was going to build a business plan, look for a space and move forward.” Adams said.
After jumping some financial hurdles Adams began to build out Vermillion in 2007. The bar and restaurant section was patterned around mom and pop-esque places in Williamsburg and Brooklyn, while the gallery turned into an architecturally interesting, yet sufficiently neutral place for hangings. The entire establishment became fully functional one year later and has been evolving ever since.
“As we got busier we had to adapt and add liquor, which is totally fine with me since it’s given us a little more freedom to have more dynamic crowd and dynamic events while still maintaining the core of what got us to where we are… I kind of open the doors for people who have creative ideas.” Adams said.
Among the various activities are monthly re-occurring events including Breadline, a poetry performance event on the third Wednesday of each month. Prominent local writer John Boylan hosts The Conversation, a round table discussion with guests from the art community, every third Tuesday. Vermillion also opens its doors every first Sunday to crafts, clothes, jewelry and oddity vendors in Art Ache.
“And now we have these events that seem to fit in a bit better with the nighttime crowd. These are Beats and Dreamtone that try to do alternative DJ nights… [Dreamtone] play old classics and northern soul. Beats write their own samples; they aren’t just playing records that everyone in the neighborhood is playing.” Adams said.
Currently on display during these events is a collaborative installation by the New Mystics, an artist troupe of 14 people with diverse backgrounds in different disciplines. Their grandiose paintings, writings, structures and drawings will be viewable for the rest of the month.
This isn’t a club, performance space, eatery, bar or solely a gallery. It is a platform that showcases artists in accompaniment with a platter of events and provisions that do not overshadow the artistic displays.
“A lot of people in this neighborhood have kept their eyes on us for a long time and they trust the legacy that we’re building with artists, and that the artist themselves are building legacies.” Adams said.
1508 11th Avenue