King County votes for new oversight for construction-fueled 4Culture cash

The King County Council voted Monday to adopt “targeted oversight” of 4Culture, the county’s cash flush “cultural funding agency.”

“4Culture would still be responsible for the fiscal management of the agency such as approving contracts, large expenditures, grant awards, and adopting a budget prior to Council review,” an announcement from the council read Monday following the vote. “The legislation makes the Council responsible for approving 4Culture’s budget prior to the County transferring funds to 4Culture for the following year.”

CHS reported here on the so-called accountability measures some on the council have pushed for as 4Culture’s funding from the county’s lodging tax and “1% for art” program has grown.

Monday’s vote set off a stream of press releases from the council’s communications office as vying factions sought to make it clear that the vote was not unanimous:

Due to the “super majority” vote for the plan, it is unlikely King County Executive Dow Constantine to can veto the new oversight legislation, KUOW reports.

 

CHS Pics | Poetry on the First Hill Streetcar

Sunday, riders on the First Hill Streetcar found some new voices joining the automated messages about upcoming stops and reminders to hold the handrail.

A special Lunar New Year edition of King County Metro’s Poetry on Buses program brought “Asian and American Asian local aspiring poets” to the streetcar route connecting Capitol Hill to Pioneer Square via the International District.

The program has placed more than 350 poems on buses and streetcars, Metro says.

Thanks to interruptions by each announcement of an upcoming stop, arriving at the stop, next stop, and a stop requested, Sunday’s readings had their own peculiar rhythm that was just odd enough to be appropriate for the First Hill Streetcar which has suffered indignities from construction delays, to a sliding incident after losing braking power, to ongoing jokes about the route’s slow performance as it shares lanes with motor vehicle traffic.

Still, the route presents an alternative way to visit Chinatown and the ID — if you aren’t in too much of a hurry. Continue reading

Tim Lennon and LANGSTON plot cultural survival in the Central District

Sitting at a conference table in the empty upstairs offices of the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute on an overcast morning, Tim Lennon breaks down the importance of Black cultural institutions for Black artists living in a 70% white city.

“In Seattle, Black folks are constantly having to moderate our stories to fit into white spaces,” he says. “To get really vulnerable, to open up your own experience to an audience built of your own community—there’s less to explain. They get it.”

Lennon’s job, ultimately, is to fill this 102-year-old building with audiences, artists, and teachers who get it. He’s the first executive director of LANGSTON, a non-profit arts organization formed to reinvigorate the historic purpose of Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute as a nexus for Black culture in a neighborhood undergoing rapid gentrification and displacement. Continue reading

With program growing by the millions, King County Council plans 4Culture ‘accountability measures’

You’ll find 4Culture at the core of many arts events and activities that CHS has covered over the years. It usually goes something like this, somewhere near the end of the story: “Funding for the event comes from King County’s 4Culture…” — sometimes the sentence continues with other funding sources. Often, it does not. Now, a public cry for help from a group of arts and 4Culture advocates has raised concerns about the future of King County’s “cultural funding agency.” Officials say the concern about a newly proposed ordinance is overblown.

Here’s the gist from the advocate site, advocate4culture.org:

The proposed ordinance allows council members
  • To veto the 4Culture budget, which determines funding for arts, heritage, preservation, and public arts
  • To hire and fire the 4Culture Executive Director
  • To nominate and directly appoint the majority of 4Culture board members without consultation
4Culture strives to distribute funds in the most strategic, meritorious, and equitable way possible, while acknowledging that improvements can always be made. The dismantling of 4Culture is not the best path toward progress, nor is it in the best interest of King County’s cultural and artistic health. We understand that 4Culture has always welcomed the chance to work with the King County Council to address its concerns. But this work must be undertaken with a shared understanding and appreciation of the effectiveness and efficiency that has defined 4Culture’s legacy over the past 15 years.

You can read the proposed ordinance here.

King County Council member Dave Upthegrove, one of six on the council listed as sponsors of the legislation, tried to address the concerns in a social media post: Continue reading

Design review: Pratt Fine Arts Center development in the CD, ‘upscale’ small efficiency project on Capitol Hill

A development set to create market-rate housing and reshape a key block of Central District arts and culture and a project that proves Capitol Hill microhousing is not dead will both take their debut bows in front of the East Design Review Board Wednesday night.

1900 S Jackson
The plan announced in spring to create a full-block expansion of the Pratt Fine Arts Center in conjunction with a six-story, 160-unit mixed-use will move forward Wednesday night as developer Daniels Real Estate brings its proposal up for early design guidance.

CHS reported in April on the Pratt project as the Central District cultural center that serves more than 4,000 art students a year marked its 40th anniversary by announcing the venture with Daniels Real Estate. The art center today has 19,000 square feet of studio space in its two existing buildings, which will remain open during the expansion. The expansion will grow the campus by adding 75% of the block between S Jackson and S Main and 19th and 20th Aves. Underground parking will have space for 100 cars. Continue reading

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.” Continue reading

From creator of Roq La Rue, Creatura House comes home to E Pike

Back from trips abroad and creating a nonprofit, Kirsten Anderson is again starting up an art gallery, but this time it’s intertwined with retail and, in a twist for the traveler, home.

Anderson founded art gallery Roq La Rue in 1998 and ran the space until it shuttered last year. It had a successful run, eventually, profits began to fall and Anderson felt burnt out on the arts scene.

“I thought this was a good time to step out and explore other things I want to do,” she said. Anderson spent her time exploring other countries as she raised money for her nonprofit. “I really missed having a space here in Seattle, being a part of the community. I had really gotten into home decor, and pulled in fine arts.”

Creatura House will be a home decor shop mingled with select art. The products will not be mass produced. To reside at 705 E Pike next to Babeland and Honeyhole, the shop opens December 8th with artist Peter Ferguson’s series of new paintings for his exhibition “I’ll Line My Nest With Your Bones.”

UPDATE: The grand opening is planned for December 15th:

Creatura House grand opening

Skate style shop Alive and Well will be making way for the new venture.

The arts business, for a while, wasn’t something Anderson thought she’d get back into.

“Artwork has changed so much and mid level galleries have been blown out,” she said. Anderson fiddles with one of the many rings on her tattooed fingers. They’re delicate tattoos, like dots and arrows. Larger tattoos decorated her arms and her earrings sparkled green and maroon beneath her black hair. Her subdued and darker style matched that of her artistic interests.

“I’m really into anything that’s dark and beautiful, not necessarily macabre, but I appreciate dark things as well,” Anderson said. “I’m completely driven by aesthetics, my whole life. I have made a living selling beautiful things to people. I like to make environments that are beautiful for people.”

She said she likes to straddle the line between absolutely beautiful and somewhat grotesque. Anderson pictures Creatura House warm, beautiful, and with a decayed opulence. Continue reading

CHS Pics | Be Bop Bars installation finds temporary home in Capitol Hill Housing’s 12th Ave Arts

12th Ave Arts played host to a unique musical experience during Thursday night’s Capitol Hill Art Walk. The “Be Bop Bars,” designed by Encore Architects in collaboration with JazzED, is an “interactive musical experience powered by people!” designed for the musician in all of us. A safe, low-voltage electric circuit completed by human touch, helps create a melody as you move from bar to bar. Continue reading

A Hill of writers in a City of Literature

Seattle has long been recognized as a music town. We have plenty of big names to point to, and there’s even a city government office devoted to promoting Seattle’s music scene. But a new designation from an arm of the United Nations might upend that narrative. UNESCO on October 31st declared Seattle to be a City of Literature.

“This designation allows us to tell a story about the city that maybe you don’t know,” said Stesha Brandon, who was part of the nonprofit that coordinated the effort.

The drive began in 2014, and led to a failed application in 2015 before the successful application this year. A successful application shows the city has a rich variety of literary activities, including book stores, an active library system, publishing, literary events and programs, and more.

One place the almost certainly worked in Seattle’s favor is Capitol Hill’s own Hugo House. Hugo House had been involved in some part of the application, and the organization is excited about the city receiving the designation, in part because it shows that we’re a city that should be better recognized for its wordsmiths.

“I think it’s important for anyone in the region to know what our strengths are,” said Tree Swenson, executive director of Hugo House. “We have a vast cultural resource in the literary community.”

The designation, Swenson said, might help make Seattle more of a literary destination.

“I think this will draw people here nationally, as well as internationally,” she said. Continue reading

Dance Underground, an open space for Capitol Hill dance communities

In an underground dance studio on 15th Ave E, you can find Ilana Rubin — hair wisped and face flush — running around or behind her desk fresh out of one workout or another, her office strewn with Halloween decorations.

Rubin runs Dance Underground, a 14-year business running a 45-year-old dance studio. The studio was first opened by Shirley Jenkins when it was called Strong Winds Wild Horses. In fact, it’s the very place Rubin met her partner more than two decades ago doing Argentine tango. Rubin herself has been a dancer all her life, harking back to her roots in Israel.

The space itself contains two spacious studios with christmas lights lining the wall-length mirrors. It certainly has a homey, lived-in feel to it through the walls and the ceiling but it’s welcoming.

“To me it’s just a part of that old Seattle that we keep talking about that’s disappearing,” said Barb Duff who uses the space for BaDi dance and exercise. “From what we do for a living, you’re just not going to find a 2,000-square-foot, unobstructed studio with a hard sprung wood floor anywhere with these cookie-cutter Ikea showrooms.”

Duff and her BaDi coworker Dina Love came to Seattle from the East Coast a while back. For them, the studio is reminiscent of New York’s “gritty dance studios” because of its ambiance. Continue reading