New medallions mark Capitol Hill Arts District bastions of ‘art, cinema, music, books, theater’

They’re symbols, sure, but you can also think of them as good user interface design. New Capitol Hill Arts District medallions are being installed across the neighborhood to help identify the 40 or so cultural and arts spaces part of the district.

“The medallions are a low-tech complement to the Arts District website, Facebook page, and the dozens of online event calendars,” Michael Seiwerath of Capitol Hill Housing tells CHS about the new additions to the neighborhood streetscape. “On a Saturday night, Pike/Pine can attract more people than Key Arena, so it’s a good marker for the thousands of people who visit the neighborhood each week.”

CHH is headquartered in the 12th Ave Arts building where affordable housing developed in conjunction with office space and theaters opened in 2014.

The new markers join special street signs deployed across Pike/Pine in 2016 as physical manifestations of the city’s arts district liaison, promotion, and marketing program which debuted with the Capitol Hill district in 2014. “We want to create a model here that can be duplicated across the country,” City Council member Nick Licata said at the time. Since, Seattle has also launched arts districts in the city’s Uptown neighborhood and the Central DistrictMatthew Richter of the Office of Arts and Culture which funds the program has described the districts as a toolkit for the arts with a focus on preserving and, if possible, growing the number of venues in the neighborhood for dance, performance, galleries, and more. It’s an ongoing challenge. This fall, Capitol Hill’s Eclectic Theater announced it was losing its 10th Ave lease after an 11-year run.


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The Office of Arts and Culture will provide the new $100 medallions to all of the 40 identified venues in the district that want to display a marker. A spokesperson said the new markers are hoped to give the district a “visible presence” that will help people find “art, cinema, music, books, theater” —

The idea of including a wayfinding system in the Arts & Cultural Districts toolkit traces back to the earliest community conversations we hosted about the creation of the citywide Districts program. How do you get patrons, whether long-time residents or short-term tourists, to walk out of Theater X and know that Gallery Y is just around the corner? How do you create a visible presence in the right-of-way for organizations that might not have the largest street frontage or the flashiest marquee? Stakeholders from the cultural community, the tourism sector, the business community, the Seattle Arts Commission, planning students from the University of Washington, and even cartographers were involved in brainstorms about designing a culturally-specific wayfinding system. (Coincidentally, those brainstorm sessions included members of what ended up becoming the first three A&C Districts – Capitol Hill, the Central Area, and Uptown.)

“The group advised the creation of a system that marked the spaces themselves, rather than focusing on mapping efforts, or apps, or directional markers in the right-of-way,” the spokesperson writes. “Wherever you see a Cultural Space Marker, you know you can find art, cinema, music, books, theater… You know you will find culture and community.”

The plaques were designed by local artist and Arts and Culture staff member Kristen Ramirez with input from members of the three current districts and were fabricated by a locally-owned company, according to the spokesperson.

The Central District arts district — formally the Historic Central Area Arts & Cultural District  — is next for the medallion effort and Uptown will follow soon, according to the city. The goal is to eventually mark every cultural space in the city — somewhere around 800 locations.

Seiwerath from Capitol Hill housing says the medallions are meant to mark more than just galleries or theaters including the nitty gritty aspects of art like studios or offices of arts organizations.

If you have a Capitol Hill location worthy of a marker (read about the qualifications here), contact Matthew Richter, Cultural Space Liaison at the Office of Arts & Culture, at matthew.richter@seattle.gov.

You can learn more at capitolhillarts.org.

UPDATE 11:53 AM: Breaking news. The marker is up at 12th Ave Arts!

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