CHS Stages | The Birds at Strawberry Theater Workshop

Trying to make sense of life in a strange new world of avian murder

As 12th Ave Arts enters its second year of full programming, its three resident companies have begun carving their own niches as their identities change with the benefits that come from permanent homes. It’s from this stable base that The Birds one of the most chaotic 12th Ave productions yet — takes off.

Strawberry Theater Workshop, with founder and artistic director Greg Carter at the helm, has always been the most political, or at least issue forward, of the three companies, producing such plays as Accidental Death of an Anarchist, The Laramie Project, and The Normal Heart. Their mission statement itself gets at this, saying,The Workshop is dedicated to the idea of ensemble, in the broadest sense of the word. Our ensemble does not only mean a resident company of workers, but a collective that includes our work, our audience, and our neighborhood. This is an activist stance.” Continue reading

Report: Music is a $1.8 billion industry in Seattle… and growing


Projections on A Wall plays Chop Suey, one of the venues to sign the Fair-Trade Music Pledge. (Image: CHS)

An infographic from the study

An infographic from the study

If Seattle’s music scene were its own city, it would have an economic output roughly the size of the Mt. Vernon metropolitan area. Which would put Pike/Pine, what? Somewhere around Aberdeen? And yet many musicians are struggling to stay afloat. That’s the conclusion of a study officially released Tuesday from the Musicians’ Association of Seattle and the American Federation of Musicians.

“It’s a much heavier economic footprint than many would imagine,” said AFM organizer Paul Bigman.

Researchers found the music industry directly employs over 16,600 people in Seattle, creating a “direct economic output” of $1.8 billion and growing. Since a similar analysis was done 2008, Seattle has added some 5,500 music-related jobs. The report doesn’t breakdown the numbers by neighborhood, but the findings are noteworthy for Pike/Pine given its outsized share of venues. Continue reading

Next generation of great dancers may not be able to call Hill home — but Velocity’s Bridge Project will help some get their start here

IMG_0181 IMG_0191 IMG_0207 IMG_0221 IMG_0242 IMG_0995 IMG_1010Tonya Lockyer, artistic director of Capitol Hill’s Velocity Dance Center and co-chair of the Capitol Hill Arts District, is trying to help keep Capitol Hill as a focus of arts energy, though it is getting increasingly difficult. She said that in a survey of the district’s artistic community, many dancers and performers want to live on the Hill to be a part of the performer community, but the cost of living here is making it ever more difficult.

One way to try and rise above that is to give emerging performers an opportunity to show their stuff. That’s what Velocity does through its annual Bridge Project. The 2016 edition takes place next week at the 12th Ave studio.

The Bridge Project started in 2006, Lockyer said, though at the time it had a different model. When she arrived in 2011, it transitioned to its current state, giving four choreographers who are either new to Seattle, or have been working here for fewer than three years, a chance to produce a show.

Lockyer says Seattle is on the rise in the dance world.

“We’re drawing people to Seattle from around the country because we’re the new hotbed for dance,” she said.

Lockyer credits this to the city having two organizations, Velocity and On the Boards, dedicated to creating a community for dancers.

“(Velocity) was founded to create a Seattle dance scene, and that’s what it’s done over the past 20 years.” Lockyer said.

For the Bridge Project, the center gives each of the budding choreographers 45 hours of rehearsal time with a group of auditioned dancers over about a month. This allows the artists to rehearse five days a week, which Lockyer said is a rare opportunity in these days of limited funding.

It also gives the dancers technical and administrative support. At the end of the show, Lockyer said, the audience members get feedback cards, so they can tell the artists what they thought.

“This is like a big, beautiful gift for everyone,” said Stephanie Liapis, one of this year’s choreographers. “This feels like a really big opportunity to try some new things.”

Liapis, who studied at the UW before moving to New York, just relocated back to Seattle in August. All that moving got her thinking about displacement; the voluntary sort of displacement — moving to a new place and the freedom, and lack of freedom it can give a person.

“It’s my experience right now, and I’m really interested in it, so I’m trying to figure it out,” she said.

In her work, she said she gave the dancers some early ideas, but much of the work will be contributed from them, with her acting as more of an editor or curator. Continue reading

Julia’s shifts to theater-first concept on Broadway after considering downtown move

(Image: CHS)

(Image: CHS)


(Image: Le Faux Show)

Over the past few months, the owners of Julia’s on Broadway spent hours discussing what Julia’s could gain — or lose — by leaving Capitol Hill.

The “queen of the brunch drag show” opened just 14 years ago at the corner of Broadway and E Thomas, but the neighborhood that inspired the bar / restaurant / performance space rapidly changed.

So much so that owners Karsten Betd and Eladio Preciado began to think if Julia’s was going to continue to draw a straighter, out-of-town crowd, why not go all in and move downtown?

“With the gay area not being here like it was back in the day, Julia’s changed to a majority of business (being) straight people,” said recently hired manager Michael Sullivan.

Ultimately, the owners decided to stay and invest their resources into remodeling their Broadway space. Now, Betd said he wants to focus on drawing those downtown tourists up the Hill for Julia’s shows. Continue reading

Hugo House announces interim First Hill home until 2018 return to Capitol Hill

In December, CHS reported on the six-story, apartment development set to create a new 10,000 square-foot writing center home for Hugo House. Tuesday, the literary nonprofit and the Frye Art Museum announced Hugo House will move to First Hill during the demolition and construction:

“We love the Frye and are delighted to become partners in the Museum’s ongoing plan to build a cultural and intellectual anchor on First Hill,” said Hugo House Executive Director Tree Swenson. “Hugo House at the Frye keeps us close to Capitol Hill, which is central for our students, teachers, and so many people who attend our events. Visitors to our temporary home on First Hill will be pleased to find the same coziness and writerly atmosphere they’ve loved for years at the old Hugo House.”

The move to the Frye-owned building is planned to take place in “mid-2016.”

Hugo House's interim home (Image courtesy Hugo House)

Hugo House’s interim home (Image courtesy Hugo House)

“Hugo House will operate a full schedule of readings, classes, book launches, workshops, teen programs, and more at the Frye while its new building is being constructed,” according to the announcement. Hugo House will continue to offer “more than seventy classes per quarter” in the Frye’s building at Boren Avenue and Columbia.

Hugo House events will be moved to the Frye’s auditorium with Elliott Bay Book Company and the Sorrento Hotel also pitching in.

Hugo House announced it will also start new programs during its stay on First Hill including “manuscript consultations and writing-group matchmaking.”

The 11th Ave development project is planned to be open by 2018 and will have room for Hugo House classrooms, offices, performance spaces, and studios for writers as well as a street-level cafe.

Is it time for Capitol Hill Arts District to add development incentives?


As we celebrate the two dozen or so new restaurants, bars, and cafes slated to open around Capitol Hill in 2016 — and we do think local, creative, independent ventures are worth celebrating — we can also remember the bones buried beneath the latest layer of neighborhood change.

Seattle Is Too Expensive For Artists Who Help It Boom, KUOW says at it weighs in with an examination of artists and affordability on Capitol Hill through the lens of a musical gear shop forced to shutter:

Chris Lomba says that what ultimately killed High Voltage was the demise of the Chop House, a nearby building that once housed a warren of rehearsal studios for rock bands. Now the Chop House is called Chop House Row, housing hip restaurants, vendors and a private club.

And a city designation that is mostly about marketing at this point:

“There are neighborhoods where the wave has crashed, neighborhoods where the wave is actively crashing, and neighborhoods where you can see the wave coming,” Richter explains. “In Pike/Pine, I think, the wave has crashed and the undertow is in the process of pulling affordability and the cultural footprint out of the neighborhood.”

Is there any hope for creativity beyond cocktails and dinner?

One epilogue (or is it a prequel?) to the KUOW story is how High Voltage lives on — sort of — at Capitol Loans. But there’s no pretending that disproves anything about the story.

More useful could be more work on the Capitol Hill Arts District. As we reported at its November 2014 launch, the City of Seattle effort left the box as a marketing initiative with tools like a website dedicated to cataloging “arts spaces” around the Hill. But Matthew Richter of the Office of Arts and Culture doesn’t have many other “tools” to work with at this point. Meanwhile, a Central Area arts district has also been created.

When we first reported on City Council member Nick Licata’s work to create an arts districts program in Seattle out of the Capitol Hill Cultural Overlay process, we talked to the City Hall legislator about the districts eventually including incentive and preservation programs:

What if, in exchange for preserving a popular neighborhood graffiti wall or including a theater or gallery space in their plans, developers were allowed to build an extra floor of apartments?

What if the city’s landmarks board began to consider “cultural merit” when doling out protection status?

What if Seattle treated culture as a valuable asset worthy of conservation?

Today, with a new City Council sworn in and Licata retired, a new effort will need to be pushed forward. Lisa Herbold, former legislative assistant to Licata, will now head the Council’s Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development and Arts committee. Every development incentive program comes with tremendous risk. Click here if you’ve ever wondered why developers aren’t incentivized to save entire buildings in the Pike/Pine Conservation Overlay District. But maybe cultural “facadism” could have saved the Chophouse Studios.

Love City Love finds a new home on Capitol Hill

After spending the last several years living in various locations around town, the Love City Love multi-use art venue and gallery will be opening its doors once again, but on Capitol Hill, this time housed in the hole in the wall space of 1406 E Pike street, the former home of Royal Cleaners laundromat.

For past two months, members of the art collective have been doing renovations. The changes are “nothing hardcore,” says Love City Love founder Lucien Pellegrin. They’re mainly just giving the space a fresh coat of paint and redoing the lighting.

What is different, however, is Love City Love’s in-the-thick-of-it proximity to Capitol Hill, one of the main exhibits in the gallery of Amazon-era change in Seattle. But Pellegrin — who founded Love City Love to give independent art and music a space to grow and thrive — isn’t looking for an all-out culture war with shiny high density housing or expensive new eateries, but rather, to continue the project’s mission of cultivating creative expression and community in an evolving city.

“The idea is a collaboration with gentrification or a collaboration with development. It’s how do we figure out a authentic way to coexist,” said Pellegrin. “The power of this location is we have a darn storefront in the middle of Pike.” Continue reading

Writers in residence: Hugo House’s future is six stories

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The design for the future Hugo House Writers Center (Image: Weinstein A+U)

When the Richard Hugo House building gets demolished next year, the literary heart of Capitol Hill will beat on in a temporary space until the “place for writers” rises like a phoenix in a new writers center in 2017.

But those metaphors won’t be fully mixed until the 11th Ave mixed-use development the new Hugo House will be part of goes through what should be its final design review Wednesday night.

1634 11th Ave
Land Use Application to allow a 6-story, 80 unit apartment building with a 10,300 sq. ft. community center (Hugo House Writer’s Center) and 1,500 sq. ft. of retail located at ground level. Parking for 95 vehicles will be located below grade. Review includes demolition of existing structures (11,000 sq. ft.). / View Design Proposal  (9 MB)    

Review Meeting: December 16, 2015 6:30pm, Seattle University, 824 12th Ave, Admissions & Alumni Building
Review Phase: REC–Recommendation  See All Reviews
Project Number: 3020067  View Permit Status  |  View Land Use Notice

Planner: Katy Haima

The intersection of development and Capitol Hill arts organizations rarely ends well. The Hugo House is proving to be an exception as a 90-unit, six story project planned to replace its 11th and E Olive home has put the nonprofit at the center of the development. With apartments above, the new Hugo House will give new meaning to writers in residence.

“The personality and character all centers around Hugo House and the owners desire to create a nicer than typical project on the Hill,” said Brian Oseran, a principal with developer Meriwether Partners. “We spent a lot of time understanding what that organization does and what their needs are.”

Activities at the Hugo House run the literary gamut, from writing workshops for adults and teens, to author readings and performances, to book launches. Expanding classrooms and performance spaces were top priorities, said Hugo House executive director Tree Swenson. Continue reading

New Capitol Hill art walk gets boost from boutique, The Stranger, Block Party, and Starbucks

Artist Jesse Higman at an art walk past (Images: CHS)

Artist Jesse Higman at an art walk past (Images: CHS)

Revived by the chamber of commerce in 2009, Capitol Hill’s monthly art walk is ready to become a bigger, more widely attended event that attracts more visitors from across Seattle thanks to new leadership — and money — from a neighborhood art boutique, The Stranger, the Capitol Hill Block Party, and Starbucks.

Details of the partnership behind the newly revamped “second Thursday” arts event were sent to participating venues this week.

Likely to be one of the most popular aspects of the new take on the art walk: no more participation fees for venues. Thanks to cash from the producers of the annual musical festival and the coffee giant, it will now be free for galleries, cafes, bars, restaurants, and shops to sign up to become part of the monthly walk:

The Art Walk is delighted to announce art walk fees are waived for all venues on the art walk, thanks to the generosity of The Capitol Hill Block Party, The Stranger, and Starbucks. Please thank these organizations for their support of the arts in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. We are incredibly grateful.

CHS and a small handful of neighborhood and area businesses who have supported the walk over the years will also continue their community sponsorships. Continue reading

Mayor announces plan for Central District arts district

The mayor’s office announced this week that the draft ordinance to create the new Central District arts is moving forward.

“The Central Area is has made enormous contributions to Seattle’s cultural identity, from the music of Jimi Hendrix and Quincy Jones to the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute,” Mayor Ed Murray said in a statement announcing the legislation. “The neighborhood’s arts heritage is felt far beyond our city boundaries. This designation honors our history and nurtures the Central Area arts community for the next generation.”

CHS reported on the new initiative earlier this month as groups including Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute, the Northwest African American Museum,Africatown, and the Seattle Black Arts Alliance held a community meeting to help give shape to the new district.

“We don’t want to just become a museum. We don’t want to be erased. We do want to preserve that legacy and stimulate more interest in how the CD can become more of a hub for black art and culture,” Vivian Phillips, director of marketing and communications for the Seattle Theater Group told CHS.

The Central District has been a hub for black art, business, and community. Following months of discussion and organizing among Central District African American arts advocates, the designation legislation is planned to begin its path through City Hall in December.

In November of 2014, Capitol Hill became the city’s first arts district, lead by Capitol Hill Housing and the Capitol Hill Chamber. The designation comes with a $50,000 dollar grant, in addition to a “Creative Placemaking Toolkit,” which includes of a number of mechanisms and programs that can be implemented.

“The Central Area is a center of African-American heritage and history, as well as a neighborhood undergoing rapid change,” the city’s announcement of the new initiative reads. “The Arts District designation recognizes the culturally rich neighborhood and seeks to preserve its character, while stimulating a growing arts environment in the Central Area.”