by Corinne Whiting
– The Capitol Hill Times –
“Creativity is in the DNA of this city,” said Randy Engstrom, interim director of Seattle’s Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs.
Sometimes it’s nice to get public recognition for things we already know to be true. For example? Capitol Hill, in our humble opinion, boasts an awesomely vibrant, thriving arts scene. Well, turns out we’re not alone in this thinking.
A report recently released by ArtPlace has named Capitol Hill and the Pike-Pine Corridor as one of “America’s Top 12 ArtPlaces,” defined as “communities that successfully combine the arts, artists and venues for creativity and expression with independent businesses, restaurants and a walkable lifestyle to make vibrant neighborhoods.”
“Arts and culture are catalytic to shaping the communities we live in. It’s a great affirmation of the investments the city of Seattle has made to have ArtPlace recognize Capitol Hill as a neighborhood that is thriving not only culturally but also economically,” Engstrom said.
Capitol Hill ranked highly among other Seattle neighborhoods and among nationwide destinations. Other top 12 winners for 2013 range from Central Hollywood in Los Angeles and Old City in Philadelphia to D.C.’s intersection of Adams Morgan, U Street and Dupont Circle, and Portland’s Pearl District (and a portion of downtown).
Portland-based consulting firm Impresa Inc. determined the set of six indicators used to select the top neighborhoods. It evaluated factors of vibrancy (a neighborhood’s Walk Score, for example) alongside arts-centric ingredients. Lastly, neighborhood tallies factored family income so that zones with the highest concentration of income wouldn’t skew the results.
At a press event last Friday, Mayor McGinn accepted the award and spoke alongside Engstrom, Carol Coletta (director of ArtPlace) and Tonya Lockyer (executive and artistic director of Velocity Dance Center). Engstrom discussed the creativity that proliferates the entire city, while Lockyer recalled the city’s immense support when Velocity, a Capitol Hill staple for its entire 17-year history, had to relocate from their former location in the Oddfellows building. Lockyer emphasized the importance of remaining in this zone where “many of the people we serve can walk or ride their bicycles to our theater and studios, and it’s all interwoven with wonderful, creative small businesses.We thrive together.”
Lockyer listed all the arts gems found within a few-block radius of Velocity – the Richard Hugo House, Cornish College of the Arts, the Northwest Film Forum and Seattle University’s Hedreen Gallery. Also, she said, “The Hill is alive with dancing.”
“I think what’s really extraordinary about Capitol Hill is that we are actually fostering artists as the innovators and entrepreneurs that they are. You don’t have to get dressed up to experience the arts on Capitol Hill. Audiences interact with the arts in this neighborhood,” Lockyer said.
During Friday’s event, attendees took a short walking tour with commentary about the future 12th Avenue Arts space (across the street from Velocity) and the creative businesses housed in the Oddfellows complex. Tour goers also visited the World Famous creative agency (known for their video production and advertising) and Neumos, which now owns fours businesses including their main music venue, Barboza, Moe Bar and Pike St. Fish Fry.
“Having our neighborhood recognized as one of the greatest artist ‘hoods in the entire U.S. is really spectacular,” said Steven Severin, co-owner and talent buyer for Neumos for the past eight years. “I’ve lived and worked in Capitol Hill for almost 20 years now. I’ve watched it evolve over the years and become this unique place filled with musicians and artists who have truly made it a one-of-a-kind neighborhood…I’m thrilled that the rest of the world gets a peek of what we have. I am very proud I got to play a small part in helping to shape the vibe and feel of the neighborhood.”
Engstrom couldn’t agree more. “Capitol Hill isn’t just a great neighborhood for the arts, it’s a great neighborhood because of the arts,” he said.
“The arts give us lenses for solving our problems and platforms for coming together as citizens,” Lockyer added. “They inspire us to see new possibilities. They remind us of who we are and what matters to us. They help us dream the future we want to build. The arts are how we celebrate our lives…It’s not just tech jobs and green spaces that inspire us to live in Seattle; it’s knowing we’ll be part of a progressive, creative city with wonderful neighborhoods like Capitol Hill.”
ArtPlace, a collaboration of national and regional foundations and major banks, aims to “accelerate creative placemaking across the U.S.” The initiative awards grants and loans, supports research and conducts outreach and advocacy. ArtPlace has already awarded 80 grants totaling $26.9 million to 76 organizations in 46 U.S. communities. Visit http://www.artplaceamerica.org for more info.