Block Party faces its future in a developing Capitol Hill



(Image: Alex Crick for CHS)


Capitol Hill Block Party wants to keep the heart of the neighborhood alive as so much of it changes.

In its 18th year, the weekend event which closes down six blocks of Pike/Pine and draws upward of 30,000 music lovers remains an annual subject of excitement from fans and the rarest of summer musical festival beasts: a three-day commercial concert venue carved out of a living, breathing city neighborhood.

With A$AP Rocky, Chromeo and Spoon headlining this year, rock fest tourists and plenty of locals will once again swarm the cordoned-off area in the heart of Pike/Pine starting July 25 for a weekend of sights, sounds and selling your soul for a parking space.

Only in America
Owner Jason Lajeunesse has not needed the Capitol Hill Block Party to make his mark on the neighborhood. CHS dubbed him one of the ‘Princes of Pike/Pine’ — along with business partner and frequent collaborator David Meinert – due to his extensive stakes in many nearby restaurants and venues, including Neumos and Lost Lake.

After spending nine years planning the Block Party’s music as co-producer, Lajeunesse took ownership of the event in 2012.

He believes Capitol Hill Block Party is a product of the neighborhood which gives it its name.

“I think it’s important to promote the neighborhood year round,” he said. “The Block Party sort of grew with the local and regional bands. As the bands got bigger, so did the Block Party.”

With four indoor venues, two outdoor stages and dozens of restaurants and bars in the area, the Block Party has the distinction of being the only event of its kind in America.

“To our knowledge Capitol Hill Block Party is unique as the only ticketed three-day street festival in the country,” Chris Swenson, program manager with the Seattle Office of Film and Music, said. “It’s a little like scooping up half of Sasquatch and plopping it in the middle of a neighborhood for a weekend. The city’s primary concern is safety and, because of the unique layout of the event, each year safety officials and agencies spend many months establishing organizer requirements and emergency plans specific to the site.” Continue reading

CHS Pics | Art walk winners crowned as Capitol Hill arts-boosting event makes new start

Matthew Bell, Max Kraushaar and Graham Downing -- in cutout and meat-space form -- took third for their book "In the Mood to Consume" (Images: Alex Garland for CHS)

Matthew Bell, Max Kraushaar and Graham Downing — in cutout and meat-space form — took third for their book “In the Mood to Consume” (Images: Alex Garland for CHS)

July’s Capitol Hill art walk marked a new start Thursday night on its mission to promote the arts and artists in the neighborhood. We stopped by the quarterly City Arts Art Walk Awards held 10th and Pike’s Sole Repair honoring creators across Seattle as part of the Hill’s second-Thursday event. Here are a few scenes from the party and moments of crowd-sourced victory along with a set of local artists you should check out the next time you get a chance.


Continue reading

SIFF fundraising campaign seeks to ‘Save the Egyptian’

2014 SIFF honoree is greeted by presenter Eddie Vedder as the popular film festival returned for another year at the Egyptian (Image courtesy a CHS reader!)

2014 SIFF honoree is greeted by presenter Eddie Vedder as the popular film festival returned for another year at the Egyptian (Image courtesy a CHS reader!)

It turns out Capitol Hill’s Egyptian Theatre still needs some saving, even after the film-focused nonprofit SIFF announced in May they had moved in to put the venue back in motion. At the launch of this year’s Seattle International Film Festival, festival organizers announced they had secured a 10-year lease with Seattle Central College to occupy the 1916-built Egyptian after Landmark Theatres left the space last year.

SIFF is now seeking to raise $300,000 to repair the aging 600-seat theater and re-open it this fall in what many hope will be a doubling of their successes at Queen Anne’s SIFF Cinema Uptown. Last month SIFF announced plans to buyout the Uptown after occupying it for several years.

According to SIFF, the “Save the Egyptian” fundraising campaign will fund new equipment for the projection room, sorely needed upgrades to the building’s plumbing and electrical systems, and a new sound system. The fundraising effort is being backed by two unnamed, but apparently well heeled, super-donors that are offering to match donations up to $155,000.

And like any good fundraising campaign ought to do, SIFF will take your money in any number of ways, including via text message.

After remaining dark for several months, the Egyptian was revived in May to play host to this year’s Seattle International Film Festival. The festival, which wrapped up earlier this month, is one of the largest film festival’s in the U.S.

SIFF and the Egyptian share an extended back-story. Built in 1916, the former Masonic temple was bought by SIFF founders Darryl MacDonald and Dan Ireland in 1980. The duo were the first to transform it into the Egyptian-themed theater. After running it for nearly a decade, SIFF sold the theater to Landmark in 1989. Seattle Central bought the building two years later, keeping Landmark as its tenant.

Goodbye to the City in the Sky at 19th and Mercer?

Work in progress (Image: CHS)

Work in progress (Image: CHS)

Speaking of Capitol Hill murals, folks walking around the increasingly bustling intersection of 19th and Mercer might have noticed the City in the Sky mural has gone beige.

We don’t know, exactly, what was behind the building ownership’s decision to cover up the peculiar fantasy depiction of a never-existed topography. The old work faced the new neighbor Tallulah’s. You can still see the three-dimensional relief of a coast line and mountains beyond. But now they’re beige.

The Pelican Bay Foundation provides this history of the work:

Located at the Pelican Bay Artists’ Building, 606 19th Ave. East, Capitol Hill, Seattle. “City in the Sky” is based on a Hopi Indian Myth. The Hopi Indians believed in star constellations and believed in ancient maps that had been drawn as a guide to the spiritual world. The Hopi believed that they existed at the center of the earth or Turtle Island. That beyond Turtle Island was the sky and that beyond the sky were dimensional portals. Beyond the dimensional portals was an area called the Ocean of Pitch, were the beauty of the night sky and the galaxies spun out towards them. Beyond that were the boundaries of the universe. And set along the rim at the boundaries of the universe were where their gods resided. The basic concept for the “City in the Sky” mural included vast landscapes, oceans and plains with artists living in self -contained portals flying high above the world.

“City in the Sky” is Seattle’s first 3-D mural. The mural was a collaboration between artists Don Miles and Don Barrie. It’s 3-D sculpting was done by Don Miles (creator of the Milestone Process) and the concept and painting was done by Don Barrie. The mural took two years to complete. 1975-1977.

The long time owner of the building is real estate investor Ron Danz. The building was at one time home to the Pelican Bay artist cooperative founded by painters Don Barrie and Karin Helmich.

The paint over is subtle enough that there might be hope of a coming re-do of the fantasy coastline. We know work crews at one point a year or two back struggled to chip away a portion of the old mural before surrendering.

One-Act Play Festival gives playwrights known — and unknown — a place to play on Capitol Hill

One-Act Play Festival, Eclectic Theater, 10th Ave, 2014 -- JO

2013 cast of "The Injury" by Robert Francis Flor.

The cast of “The Injury” by Robert Francis Flor, which was featured at the first One-Act Play Festival at the Eclectic Theater, in 2013.

Robert Francis Flor

Robert Francis Flor

Without gobs of cash to spend, finding a stage for an unknown script can be a dubious task. This weekend, the second — and quite possibly second annual – One-Act Play Festival at Capitol Hill’s Eclectic Theater seeks to break the barrier to getting a break. Members of the local theater community and those with a seat in the audience may be set to reap the benefits of the event’s enthusiastic approach.

Saying “go for it” to pretty much anybody who has a script, the ability, and gumption to bring a play of 15-minutes-or-less to production, the festival brings together playwrights and actors who may not typically rub shoulders for a chance to network while new material is tried out or existing works are recast. It also gives festival goers and participants a chance to see a range of approaches to theater through a lineup of concisely packaged narratives. In total, this Friday and Saturday night, 14 local playwrights and production companies will bring their short plays to the stage of the 49-seat 10th Ave theater.

“Our goal here is essentially to let the theater community get to know one another better — and with that in mind the festival’s a little different,” said Leonard Goodisman, Eclectic Theater’s development director. “We let any group or any individual who can put a play on and put it together do so, and we try hard to not have any restrictions.”

“We don’t want to tell people how to do their plays — we want them to show us what they think theater is, what it should be, and how they perceive it,” he said.

The only limit is time. Continue reading

Revived Capitol Hill Art Walk marks five years with new mission, special June edition

IMG_0374Capitol Hill’s art walk celebrates an anniversary Thursday with a new look and feel for the monthly event dedicated to boosting neighborhood artists and small businesses dedicated to creativity and performance.

Some of the change is straight up branding. With more discussion about the possibilities of a cultural district, the “Blitz Capitol Art Walk” has been simplified to the “Capitol Hill Art Walk” to keep the focus on the neighborhood.

“It’s not like Pioneer Square where it’s consolidated,” says Michelle Hippler of the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce, the organization that has backed the monthly event for the past five years. “We want people to know they can experience different things on art walk night,” she said.

Some changes go beyond marketing. The chamber plans to introduce a Capitol Hill Arts Hero Award, a a new honor that will celebrate art and artists on the Hill. Continue reading

Belltown’s Black Mountain will have Hill roots, plus new Crybaby and Vita projects

Crybaby Belltown under construction (Image: Alicia Amiri via Twitter)

Crybaby Belltown under construction (Image: Alicia Amiri via Twitter)



The proprietor of a legendary Pike/Pine music studio, a music industry veteran with Neumos and Capitol Hill Block Party chops, and the leading exporter of Pike/Pine cool to the global craft coffee market are working together on a new project that combines their love for music and caffeine, stiff drinks and pizza. And it won’t be on Capitol Hill.

“Cap hill is too expensive to be feasible for our project,” Alicia Amiri tells CHS. “We’re also looking forward to staking some new ground in a fresh part of town in the face of the changing landscape Capitol Hill.”

Amiri and Crybaby Studios lead Leigh Stone are teaming up with Caffe Vita and Via Tribunali honcho Mike McConnell on a “Capitol Hill complex“-like project taking over an old office building on 2nd Ave in Belltown.

The project will center around Amiri’s new Black Mountain music venue. Planned as a 250-person capacity music club, Amiri said Black Mountain will be all-ages friendly and will neighbor a bar and pizza restaurant. A Caffe Vita Belltown is also part of the plans. Leigh’s Crybaby Belltown studios, practice, and art spaces will fill the second floor of the building.

Amiri says the project is just getting underway and construction is yet to begin on the first floor component of the project but the new Crybaby studios are almost ready to rock. If you’re looking for space to perform or an art studio to work in, Stone is collecting names for a wait list. Send her email here. Room details and rates will be posted soon at

Was offices, soon Capitol Hill west (Image: King County)

Was offices, soon Capitol Hill west (Image: King County)

CHS visited 11th Ave’s Crybaby in 2011. Stone has said the Belltown opening represents an expansion — not a move. Meanwhile, McConnell’s Vita is celebrating 20 years of Seattle coffee culture.

The new Belltown partnership comes as city officials and community representatives are looking at strategies to preserve and create new arts venues on Capitol Hill as the pressure for housing climbs and marketplace for bar and restaurant tenants remains red hot. It also is a reminder of the continually changing face of the Hill and the neighborhoods of Central Seattle and downtown. For those of you feeling competitive with our neighbor neighborhoods, at least Black Mountain isn’t opening in Hill “arch nemesis” Pioneer Square.

An inexpensive journey into French theater at Velocity Dance

(Image: Courtesy Cecile Casanova)

(Image: Courtesy Cecile Casanova)

French theater is having a kind of renaissance in Seattle. On June 7, Cécile Casanova, professor at French-American School of Puget Sound will present two short plays in French at Velocity Dance Studio (8:00pm).

It’s an opportunity to practice your French or to sit and listen to lovely sounds. The actors are non-professional and some are students of the French-American School. It’s an inexpensive evening ($5) and the plays, if you understand them, may offer a lot. Casanova talked with CHS about the two shorts, the first a ten minute piece, the second about an hour long.  Continue reading

Little Theater’s long run as 19th Ave performance space likely over as WET exits

(Image: CHS)

(Image: CHS)

Comedy The Hunchback of Seville will likely be the last work staged inside Capitol Hill's Little Theater (Image: WET)

Comedy The Hunchback of Seville will likely be the last work staged inside Capitol Hill’s Little Theater (Image: WET)

It was a good run for Capitol Hill’s unique Little Theater – certainly longer than many would have expected from a tiny performance space on the quiet side of Capitol Hill. But when the Washington Ensemble Theatre moves out of its decade-long home at the end of July, the days of a 19th and Mercer theater are probably over, too.

Andrew Person, an agent with building owner Northwest Commercial Real Estate Investments, tells CHS a restaurant or bar will most likely take over the 1,500 square foot space.

“We’re not necessarily looking for another a theater. It’s basically just going to be a rectangular box,” Person said. Continue reading

Vote on designs for four new Capitol Hill murals from E Olive Way to 15th Ave E

27_agular_howell-1024x602A project to add new murals to four Capitol Hill buildings is moving forward with a round of community voting on artist-submitted designs. The Seattle Mural Project announced its search for submissions in March.

SMP-LOGO-2014 (2)Voting can be completed by clicking the linked location names below or starting here. You’ll also want to make sure to view the slideshows on the voting site:

It is very important that you also take the time to review the portfolio slideshow for the submitted designs. Some of the designs are fully realized while others are more of a conceptual sketch. By reviewing the portfolio images, you can see more clearly what the artist is intending.

Artists selected to participate will be awarded $3,000 in compensation upon completion of their murals thanks to the city’s Neighborhood Matching Fund. “The muralists will also be provided all of the paint and equipment they need to complete their vision thanks to the generous contributions of Miller Paint and Art Primo who both stepped up to generously sponsor the event,” according to the Seattle Mural Project organizers.

Links to the location voting pages with all submissions and design highlights culled by CHS are below. On the voting pages you’ll find even more ideas from around the world for how to add even more color to the Hill. Organizers say voting closes May 31st.

Continue reading

New photography exhibition focuses on the ‘Historic Apartments on Capitol Hill’

The Bering

The Bering

Seattle University student Lana Blinderman will share images of Capitol Hill’s old — and oftentimes, endangered — mid-twentieth century apartment buildings as part of the 2014 Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) Photography Exhibition showcasing the work of graduating students:

In Places We Keep, Lana Blinderman spends her time in the company of beautiful buildings. She is often spotted carrying a heavy camera and a tripod around her neighborhood while photographing notable early and mid-twentieth century apartments. In a rapidly changing urban landscape, the dirty words “gentrification” and “displacement” invade our lives, neighborhoods, and conversations. Blinderman draws attention to the beauty and historic character of Seattle’s Capitol Hill. Through her fine documentary images, we are asked to consider the implications of urban redevelopment. 

Blinderman tells CHS the photographs on display starting with Thursday night’s reception represent only a small portion of the images of the legendary old buildings she has captured around Capitol Hill.

“I did fall in love with many of the buildings and would love to live in some of them someday, like La Crosse, Kingshire or Chardonnay, to name a few,” Blinderman told CHS. “One of my biggest inspirations was Diana James‘ book ‘Shared Walls’ and her neighborhood tour; it certainly gave me an appreciation of these buildings’ history beyond visual pleasure.”

Blinderman says that the fate of one building in particular causes her the greatest pain of coming loss. “One building that is not included in the show but really broke my heart is Ruth Court at 133 18th Ave E,” she writes. “It is going to be demolished and replaced with a much larger building. So sorry to see such beauty and character go away.” CHS wrote about the Ruth Court development here.

Blinderman is also lucky enough to have found a home in one of the buildings she loves. “I have just renewed my lease for a studio in an early 20th century brick apartment building,” she writes.”

Places We Keep – Historic Apartments on Capitol Hill
Seattle University 2014 BFA Exhibition
Reception: Thursday, May 22, 5:00 to 8:00 PM
May 22 to June 14 in the Vachon Gallery, Seattle University Fine Arts Building
Gallery hours: weekdays, 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM

Capitol Hill Arts District gets a push with ideas for promotion, preservation — and helping artists make rent

Tuesday's panel (Image: Capitol Hill Housing)

Tuesday’s panel included, from the left, Matthew Richter (City of Seattle), Tonya Lockyer (Velocity Dance), Jason Plourde (Three Dollar Bill Cinema), Seth Garrison ‘Mo-Wave!), Cathryn Vandenbrink (ArtsSpace USA), and Lesley Bain (Frameworks). SIFF’s Carl Spence was also part of the talk but had to run to make a 7 PM screening at the nearby Egyptian.
You can weigh in here on the question “What do you want the Capitol Hill Arts District to accomplish?
(Image: Capitol Hill Housing)

Over the past few years, the heart of Capitol Hill’s art scene has experienced a near-constant barrage of development. Where once was cheap studio space, there is now a mixed-use apartment building with $1,500 studio apartments. Where once was a stage, there is… well, a mixed-use apartment building with $1,500 studio apartments. Anyway, you get the idea. The City of Seattle — perhaps late in the game — has decided to start figuring out how to keep Capitol Hill the art epicenter of the city. Ideas on how to do it were pushed further ahead at Tuesday night’s annual Capitol Hill Housing forum.

The Capitol Hill Arts District is still just an idea. City Council member Nick Licata said it is up to the community to pressure government to act. “Every mayor I have talked to has said it is a good idea,” Licata said Tuesday night. “But they never got around to establishing it.”

Continue reading