How We Can Make The Capitol Hill Arts Walk Better

As, I walked around the Capitol Hill Arts Walk I thought to myself: “This has the potential to be a lot better.”  It was great to see some local artists and people that supported them. However, there are plenty of things that could make it much more enjoyable for everyone involved. I am going to identify the five biggest problems and then give five easy, cheap solutions that could be in place by the second Thursday of March.

Arts Walk logo

Here’s what doesn’t work:

  1. There was very little advertising. Some venues had a Capitol Hill Arts Walk sign in their window, some didn’t. It was not obvious that the Art Walk was going on.
  2. It was unclear where the exhibitions were and the different venues were not in touch with the one another. I went into three different stores that were hosting the Arts Walk before I found a map.
  3. Half the time the artists were not at the place that had their work.  People are much less likely to care about going in and seeing the work if the artist is not there.
  4. There’s not enough free wine.
  5. The Arts Walk is way too far apart from each other. There were 34 different places hosting art and they are spread out from 14th Avenue and E. Pine Street to Broadway and E. Roy Street. It’s unreasonable to think that people are going to walk around that much when it’s cold and potentially rainy.

 Here’s some easy and cheap ways to make it better:

  1. Advertising- Everybody on Capitol Hill from residents to tourists need to know that the Arts Walk is going on. Every venue that is hosting art needs to have a big Arts Walk sign in the window so, people know right way. For clarity, it’s best for everyone to have the same Capitol Hill Arts Walk logo. Additionally, the self-standing chalk boards that restaurants and bars use to show off their drink or food specials, should say something to the effect of, “Arts Walk-come in and see local art and have a glass of wine.” Making the entire experience inviting should be the top priority.
  2. Have a few volunteers stand in high volume areas (From 12th Avenue and E. Pike/Pine Street to Broadway) handing out flyers for the Arts Walk with a map of the locations. This creates awareness of the event and makes it easy for people to participate.
  3. Encourage the artists to be at the venue that has their work. It should have an exhibit feel so a long time fan or new one can interact with the artist. Creating that human connection both with the artists and other patrons is what makes an art walk fun and cool.  
  4. At the Pioneer Square Art Walk, there is plenty of wine and snacks, when people are drunk and happy they are more likely to hang around, have a good time and potentially buy some art. I know artists don’t have a lot of money, but putting out donation jar with a sign suggesting “$1 donation” should cover most of the cost for wine and snacks.
  5. If it’s possible, making the Art Walk more concentrated would really boost interest and participation. I’m sure it’s easier said than done, but the promoters of the Arts Walk should try to lobby as many places from 12th Avenue and E. Pike/Pine Street to Bauhaus on E. Pine and Melrose Street to be a venue for art. If the previous four suggestions were taken up and more interest and participation happened, it would be easier to convince business owners. It’s beneficial for them because people are more likely to buy what’s in their store/restaurant or cafe and its beneficial for the community because people get to see and buy work for local artists.

 I would like to see the Capitol Hill Arts Walk be a premiere event that people from all over Seattle come to check out. We need to work as a community to make that happen.

 Here are some pictures of nice artists I met and their work: 



Holly Cannell

Holly’s painting

More of Holly’s work

Amber Bronnum

More of Amber’s work

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12 thoughts on “How We Can Make The Capitol Hill Arts Walk Better

  1. You should get in contact with Jeanine Anderson; I believe the Blitz is looking for volunteers and would love to work on developing some of these ideas or discussing them with you. You can never shoehorn a Pioneer Square style art walk into a neighborhood as physically and socially different as the Hill, and in recent months you may have noticed that many of the First Thursday galleries have stopped serving alcoholic beverages altogether because of a city crackdown due to legality issues surrounding serving booze to uncarded patrons (read: minors). But you make some thoughtful points.

  2. Check out the last Thursdays on Alberta street in Portland. It’s an open call to all artist and functions with a mix of highend art and really fun swap meet. A few things that they do to make it successful, they have a committe, comitment to the financial vitality of their neighborhood, they close down a 20 block area for vendors to be on the sidewalks, they have larger events all year round to keep up interest, and they atract a variety of artist from children to regional invited guests.

  3. Google “capitol hill art walk seattle” and you’ll find lots of text info but no obvious venue maps.

    What is needed is a Google-type map with the venues picked out etc. Could easily be made a cooperative Google map and be self-registering.

    Justin (runs this site) has facilitated similar maps for the Capitol Hill garage sale.

  4. Blitz is in particular need of folks who want to help get posters up, postcards out, and maps distributed to the venues listed, and also to hand out maps on arts walk night. Wanna help? Email Blitz at

    Print-your-own map(pdf) and an online Google map with markers and event information are available on about a week before the art walk.

    Participation in Blitz is open to all venues and artist studios who want to show art, have a performance, offer special discounts, organize an event, or activity in their space. There is a fee to participate (which covers design/printing costs) and each venue is responsible for arranging their own show/event.
    If you’re interested in participating as a venue, please email

  5. Bones, when I read your suggestion about how we could Portlandize the Blitz, I can’t help but hear “poor little art walk…I know, I’ll put a bird on it!”

  6. One difficulty that Capitol Hill faces is the lack of galleries and artist run spaces that open up for the art walk. Its not that these places don’t exist (although, as pointed out, things are more spread out than in other places), but there are hurdles to overcome before people will open the spaces they create art in to the public…such as a fee to be part of the walk (however, I was happy to hear that the fee has been decreased).

    The primary draw that most successful art walks have is a direct connection with the artists who have work to show. In the PS Walk, Portland Walk, and similar events around the country, the focus is on ideas and venues that are artist or gallery run, not cafes and restaurants that have space to house artist work. The galleries and artists, if engaged, will help greatly to promote the event to a consistent group of people that will eventually frequent the event. The cafes are important, both for money and the influence the Chamber of Commerce, but shouldn’t be primary.

    So, my tips:
    Kill the fee for artists to open their spaces (still verify them and paper-work them) and make it easy for them to send in map information.
    Get a better website so people can go to it and easily see what is new and where. Little features and guest interviews with artists is probably a good ideas too.


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  8. Yes! A bird! I love that segment from Portlandia.
    And Lo! There happens to be birds on Blitz’s new poster and postcards.

  9. I’m so glad that this conversation is continuing! I am one of the owners of Office Nomads on Boylston, and we love participating in the Blitz. We only join in once/quarter as that is how frequently we rotate our artwork at the office, but participating in this community-wide event is great for us, and for the artists we host!
    I’d echo “b” and recommend that particularly for spaces that are not galleries (which I think is the majority of spaces that participate in Blitz), ensuring that artists can hang their work for free in your space is key. We’ve been so lucky to have some incredible artists use our space, and I’m pretty sure that the fact that we don’t charge a fee to use our space is a part of that (check out our list here:
    This past Blitz, we heard from several visitors how they were disappointed that many participating venues not only don’t have the artists at their events, but often don’t change up their artwork…ever. I’d add to the list of recommendations that rotating your artwork should be a key aspect of participating in Blitz. Keep it interesting, and you’ll encourage people to drop by when you participate! And never underestimate the power of new artwork in whatever space you have.
    The other recommendation is for all participating venues to be sure to shout out their participation in Blitz to their community – be sure to blog/newsletter/Tweet/FB/whatever your plans and how you’ll be hosting an event, and be sure to put Blitz info out in your space. If we want this thing to grow, it takes more than just relying on the volunteer crew to make that happen.

  10. The art walk has technically been in existence for a number of years, yet it is not widely known. I am an artist, and by all accounts quite a good one at that…yet time and time again, i show my pieces, direct them to my website, and then …NOTHING. So, perhaps I really suck, right? I don’t think so. The only time I ever showed, I sold over 1/2 of all my shown pieces at got what I wanted for them. No questioTns.
    Yet, I go by these same business who show “their choice” and I go, “WHAT? WAIT…must be a RELATIVE”.
    Face it. There are a LOT of artists in Seattle. There are far fewer REALLY GOOD artists in Seattle, and are overshadowed by the GLUT of mundane, “oh, ha ha”, tweaker art and largely forgettable pieces that grace the walls of these public places.

    Businesses — SHOW GOOD AND GREAT ART, NOT TRENDY MONKEY-WITH-A-BRUSH OVERSIZED CANVAS CRAP! The public LOVES REAL talent. And REAL ARTISTS will be with their work! I have learned that being the face of the person who created the piece they are in awe of not only sells, but makes then business look smarter too!

    And businesses . . . when an artist asks if you would show a few pieces of their work, LOOK AT IT. TAKE INTEREST. Don’t point them to a sign up sheet that some bozo will partially glaze over and then choose their newest stupid hip ‘dude’ who does ‘cool shit’ anyway.

    And watch for me, because now I am game on more than my first time!