“The culture and the arts are really core to the identity of this neighborhood—there needs to be policy that will allow for its preservation, so that there can be an arts ecology here,” said Randy Engstrom, recently appointed director of the Seattle Office of Arts and Culture.
And boy, is Capitol Hill’s arts ecology dense.
Discussion leader Jeffrey Cook struggled to keep up as the makeshift think tank that formed at Thursday’s Capitol Hill Community Council-hosted arts forum shouted out a litany arts organizations to add to the an arts mailing list, which quadrupled in the span of five minutes.
Greg Carter of Strawberry Theatre Workshop, Lila Hurwitz of Artist Trust, and Steve Jensen, local sculptor and artist, joined Engstrom on the arts panel for the night — “Arts on Capitol Hill: What we have and How to Keep it.” The discussion was equal parts celebration and criticism, ranging from breathless praise of the 12th Ave Arts project which recently broke ground, to a lengthy debate on whether or not the name “Capitol Hill Blitz” is “too german” and misleading for the monthly arts walk.
Hurwitz talked about the lack of awareness artists seem to have about the various grants available to them. “It always surprises me when I meet artists who don’t know we have free money to give them,” Hurwitz said. “Anyone in any discipline can apply for our Artist Trust fellowships—I hope that we can ge the word out in the community here on the Hill about what we can offer.” Engstrom echoed the sentiment—Seattle Arts and Culture has money to give to artists who need support.
The Cultural Overlay District Advisory Committee (CODAC) was also a central focus at the meeting. Frank Video, legislative assistant to City Council member Nick Licata, explained the CODAC’s purpose as a response to the community’s call for cultural preservation. The CODAC resolution would designate “Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood as an Arts District and approv[e] a plan to protect and promote the cultural vitality of the District.” CHS reported on the opportunities and challenges in creating a district on Capitol Hill earlier this month.