It’s hard to get through a week of talk without gentrification coming up in one form or another. Seattle grows more expensive, rent is as high as the cranes erecting superstructures all over town, and artists are infamous for scraping by on low wages. That’s why they moved to Capitol Hill way back when rent was low, and that’s why they’re moving elsewhere now that it’s not. In an effort to retain Capitol Hill’s artists and art organizations – much of the neighborhood’s identity and pride – Capitol Hill Housing aims to make Capitol Hill a recognized arts district.
So, what’s an arts district, and what good will it do?
“It depends. There are lots of different models across the country, but what they’re [Capitol Hill Housing] thinking is that they’re trying to use it as a way to consolidate. And it can include promoting the whole district to the rest of the city, bringing in people, but also as a possible funding mechanism,” Michelle Hippler of the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce said. “Right now the Chamber will get grants and give it towards the arts, but we have all of these other things that we want to use money for, too.”
Besides improving the neighborhood’s art culture, a Capitol Hill Arts District’s goal is to preserve the 28 art spaces that already live in the neighborhood.
Hippler said that an arts district would be able to bring more people (i.e. money) to Capitol Hill’s galleries, art organizations, and artists through publicity and special events.
“And there are things like shared-parking that are in there, too, so that patrons can come to the Northwest Film Forum and have a special place to park; they won’t have to fight with everyone else,” Hippler said.
Amy Allsopp of Capitol Hill Housing added, “Building on successful arts districts in other cities, a Capitol Hill Arts District could bring shared marketing plans, pole banners and wayfinding, and developers’ tools for preserving and creating arts spaces.”
On May 20, Capitol Hill Housing will host a public forum on the matter.
Representing the Roosevelt Row Arts District, an arts district that, for the last 15, keeps growing stronger, Greg Esser will present at the event. He is the Desert Initiative Director of Arizona State University’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, has directed three of the largest municipal public art programs in the United States, and is the founder and former executive director of the Roosevelt Row Community Development Corporation focused on community revitalization through the arts and culture in downtown Phoenix.
Following Esser, local leaders (Leslie Bain of Frameworks Cultural Placemaking, Tonya Lockyer of Velocity Dance Center, Jason Plourde of Three Dollar Bill Cinema, Matthew Richter of the City of Seattle and Cathryn Vandenbrink of Artspace) will have a chance to voice their visions for the neighborhood.
Parallel to the forming of an arts district, the Blitz Art Walk is also being revamped. For one, it’s not being called “Blitz” anymore, but is, instead, the “Capitol Hill Arts Walk.”
From now on, the Capitol Hill Art Walk will start at the Cal Anderson Park Shelterhouse (1634 11th Avenue), where maps and tour guides can be found. And in June, there will be a party to kick off the art walk’s new look.
Capitol Hill Housing’s ninth annual forum, “Launching a Capitol Hill Arts District” will take place on May 20, at 915 East Pine Street, on the second floor (West Hall) of the Oddfellows Building, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. The event is free but space is limited. Registration can be found at www.eventbrite.com/o/capitol-hill-housing-foundation-2211928871?s=24523493.