There’s a better use for this: The marquee lights up at 12th Ave Arts

(Images: Alex Garland for CHS)

(Images: Alex Garland for CHS)

IMG_0916UPDATE: With speeches from a stage full of the movers and shakers who made the project happen, artists, and city and state officials, 12th Ave Arts opened its doors Thursday night.

Calling the project a new “center of community life” for Capitol Hill, Capitol Hill Housing CEO Chris Persons thanked the more than 200 capital donors who made the project possible and made way for a long roster of speakers there to introduce the project to the neighborhood. Rep. Frank Chopp got the audience on its feet to applaud “the Seattle spirit” and christened the largest of the two theater spaces in the facility with its first performance — his reading of the James Oppenheim poem Bread and Roses. The dignitaries even threw a few lines to the theater folk. Strawberry Workshop’s Greg Carter said he was ready to get to work in a building emblematic of Capitol Hill — a neighborhood with an environment open to creating “things that don’t make sense.” Continue reading

Capitol Hill Arts District gets to work with promotion now, development incentives later

Council finance and culture chair Nick Licata at Saturday's ceremony (Images: CHS)

Council finance and culture chair Nick Licata at Saturday’s ceremony (Images: CHS)

The Capitol Hill Arts District was launched Saturday. It has plenty of work to do.

“There’s a chance that half of these artists, myself included, won’t be able to live here in five years,” says Amanda Manitach. She’s standing beside fellow artist Jesse Higman inside Hugo House, amid 11 fresh-baked artistic renditions of a day in the life of Capitol Hill: sketches, video, poems.

Manitach says she knows one artist who’s already considering homelessness in order to remain on the Hill. “It kill[s] me,” she says. “This guy has a job. In my opinion he makes some of the most thoughtfully political and aesthetically poignant art in the region.”

With property values and rents skyrocketing in the country’s fastest-growing big city, Manitach isn’t alone in her fear that development on Capitol Hill will wash away all the interesting poor people who made it desirable in the first place, transforming a countercultural gayborhood into a wasteland of luxury apartments and trite party bars.

Manitach

Manitach

But there’s some good news. The City Council is ready to vote Monday afternoon to christen Capitol Hill as Seattle’s first bona fide Arts District. The Office of Arts and Culture describes the district as “an attempt to bring cohesion” to the “constellation of arts organizations” splattered around E Pine and 12th Ave via a combination of community organizing, public advertising, and zoning incentives that will hopefully prompt developers to provision for the creation, and creators, of art. Continue reading

Reminder: Capitol Hill Arts District launch

Cap_Hill__Arts__District-logo3… 2… 1… liftoff. It’s not quite as exciting as landing on the Comet a comet, but city officials, artists, and the people who love them will be at Hugo House Saturday to celebrate. Saturday marks the launch of the new Capitol Hill Arts and Cultural District, a campaign to promote the arts, artists, and art venues in the neighborhood. CHS wrote here about the program and its long road to existence. On Saturday, you can join the party and head out to open houses around the area:

Capitol Hill Arts District Celebration

Capitol Hill Arts District Launch
Hugo House 1634 11th Ave
Doors open at 11 am
Speaking program at 11:30 am
Hear from Mayor Ed Murray; Councilmember Nick Licata; Office of Arts & Culture director, Randy Engstrom; Capitol Hill Housing Foundation Director, Michael Seiwerath and artist Amanda Manitach. A new group artwork curated by Amanda Manitach, demonstrating the vitality and vibrancy of Capitol Hill, will also be unveiled.

After the program, many Capitol Hill culture locations will host open houses in the early afternoon.

Henna Night

Learn and Practice the Art of Henna while supporting a great cause! The Youth Tutoring Program, a program of Catholic Community Services, is an after school tutoring and mentoring program for at-risk youth in grades 1-12. Most of the youth served are resettled refugees or immigrants, primarily from East Africa. Join supporters of YTP at a fun night at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church on December 6th from 6:15-9pm, learning about the history of henna from Seattle henna artist Kree Arvanitas, and receive a henna design of your choice before leaving! Guests will also enjoy East African music and food. Please register at: www.tinyurl.com/YTPHennaNight. For more information, contact Bridget Guerrero at (206) 328-5970, or BridgetG@ccsww.org.

Cornish celebrates 100 years of arts education on — and beyond — Capitol Hill

Cornish at Broadway and Pine, 1920 (Image: Webster & Stevens; PEMCO Webster & Stevens Collection, Museum of History & Industry, Seattle)

Cornish at Broadway and Pine, 1920 (Image: Webster & Stevens; PEMCO Webster & Stevens Collection, Museum of History & Industry, Seattle)

Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 5.46.00 PM

Nellie Centennial Cornish (Image: Cornish College of the Arts, with permission to CHS)

On November 14th, 1914, so the story goes, Nellie Cornish stepped off a boat in Elliott Bay, walked up Capitol Hill, and opened a small music school in an office building at Broadway and Pine.

One hundred years later, Cornish’s school maintains its Capitol Hill presence, although significantly expanded and re-centered off the Hill across I-5. This week, Cornish College of the Arts will celebrate 100 years of providing arts education in Seattle. (Oddly enough, Cornish’s middle name was Centennial because she was born in 1876, the centennial anniversary of U.S. independence).

After opening in Broadway’s Booth Building (which continues to be used by Seattle Central College), Cornish quickly set her sites on expanding. Her school was so popular she had to hold classes in Odd Fellows Hall. Eventually, Cornish was able to raise enough money to build Kerry Hall in 1921 on the corner of Roy and Boylston. Today, the Mission-revival building is still used for music and dance instruction, as well as live performances in the small Poncho Theater. Continue reading

Seattle creates its first ‘Arts and Cultural District’ on Capitol Hill

It's not the headquarters for the district but the new 12th Ave Arts will be a big part of the launch  (Image: Capitol Hill Housing)

It’s not the headquarters for the district but the new 12th Ave Arts will be a big part of the launch (Image: Capitol Hill Housing)

Capitol Hill Housing and others have already moved into the new office spaces -- the stages will be put into motion come 2015 (Image: New Century Theater via Facebook)

Capitol Hill Housing and others have already moved into the new office spaces — the stages will be put into motion come 2015 (Image: New Century Theater via Facebook)

With $50,000 in federal money to help kick it off, City Hall will finally begin to put shape to a multi-year quest by creating Seattle’s first “Arts and Cultural District” on Capitol Hill. The program will launch later in November along with the grand opening celebration of Capitol Hill Housing’s new affordable apartments + non-profit office space + restaurants + East Precinct parking + theater development, 12th Ave Arts.

But 12th Ave won’t be the center of the new Hill initiative.

“We’ve talked about Cal Anderson Park as the center of it,” City of Seattle cultural space liaison and arts entrepreneur Matthew Richter told CHS earlier this fall.

We were there in 2009 as city officials came to the Odd Fellows building to plant the seeds for the new cultural district (Image: CHS)

We were there in 2009 as city officials came to the Odd Fellows building to plant the seeds for the new cultural district (Image: CHS)

Continue reading

CHS Pics | A Capitol Hill fall tradition, Weavers’ Guild sale at St. Mark’s

Annette Mentzer and friend spin hand-carded wool (Images: CHS)

Annette Mentzer and friend spin hand-carded wool (Images: CHS)

A longtime part of fall of Capitol Hill, the Seattle Weaver’s Guild has returned to St. Mark’s this weekend for its annual sale that is equal parts opportunity to get your holiday shopping done early and opportunity to learn.

“You can learn a lot from a book but its nothing like being mentored by a wise woman,” weaver Marilyn Romatka told CHS. Creating pieces of woven art since 2007, Romatka worked Thursday on broken twill with tencel on a tabletop loom.

Kris Leet has been weaving since 1971. Her patterns go back even further with the oldest textile bands made in her medieval style dating back to 600-800 BC.

Judith Noble is also a guild longtimer. She says monthly study groups help guild members learn new techniques and improve their work. It also seems like a good way to make a few crafty friends. Continue reading

‘As many authors as we can logically put on the physical map’ — Lit Crawl Seattle ready for a new march around Capitol Hill

Screen Shot 2014-10-18 at 2.29.05 PM Screen Shot 2014-10-18 at 2.23.48 PMIf you have a love for literature or perhaps even just a passing interest in the written word you may be wishing for the power to be in quite a few places at once in Capitol Hill and First Hill Thursday night. The third annual Lit Crawl Seattle requires you to make a few decisions — three, to be exact.

A fitting, albeit more densely packed, fall compliment to APRIL Festival’s early spring celebration of strictly independent literature, and punctuating a Seattle literary calendar already relatively rich with year-round activity, Lit Crawl Seattle will bring some 64 writers and artists out for 21 readings at venues across First Hill and Capitol Hill, along with a over a dozen more folks acting as hosts. The full schedule is here.

“It’s a festive, large event that is meant to provide a giant showcase of as many authors as we can logically put on the physical map in the time span that we have to play with,” co-chair of Lit Crawl Seattle’s board of directors Jane Hodges told CHS.

“We really think of it as sort of a buffet,” she said. “The literary community here is huge. We want to bring out people that have large followings because they’re out being social, as well as people you don’t see so often.” Continue reading

Bright artists wanted for solar-powered Capitol Hill Gateway Kiosk project

Quick -- somebody call Susan Robb (Image: CHS)

Quick — somebody call Susan Robb (Image: CHS)

Seattle City Light is joining with the Office of Arts and Culture to create new artworks across Seattle that will highlight the uses and benefits of renewable solar energy. The premier component will be a Capitol Hill Gateway Kiosk project. The goal is to have the new work in place on the Hill in a yet to be announced location by the sunny summer of 2015.

“The Capitol Hill Gateway Kiosk will serve two main purposes. It will be a gateway/informational kiosk to the newly formed Capitol Hill Arts District which will be publicly announced on November 15, and it will also be a stand-alone artwork that uses or demonstrates solar power,” Calandra Childers of the Office of Arts and Culture told CHS. Continue reading

Capitol Hill’s Hugo House makes mixed-use plans to stay on 11th Ave

(Image: Hugo House)

(Image: Hugo House)

Cramped in its longtime residence inside a 1903-built former mortuary, literary-focused Capitol Hill nonprofit Hugo House announced Monday that it has begun work on a plan to build a new center as part of a mixed-use development at the site of its 11th Ave home.

“What’s great about this new project is that Hugo House can operate as usual during the design phase and we will still be able to stay where we are after construction is completed —but in a new, more functional, efficient and community-friendly space,” Hugo House executive director Tree Swenson said in a statement.

The new development will include 10,000 to 15,000 square feet of ground-level commercial/retail space, as well as up to five stories of multi-family housing right across the street from Cal Anderson Park. Zoning in the area would allow the building to reach 65 feet — good enough for six stories (or more if you’re good with words.) Its location in the Pike/Pine Conservation Overlay District could open the project up to additional height if portions of the original structure were to be preserved. A 2013 hearing determined the former Manning’s Funeral Parlor should not be protected as an official city landmark.

UPDATE: We asked Swenson about her thoughts on being part of the Hill’s continuing wave of mixed-use development and Hugo House’s part in planning what comes next for the parcel. She was unassuming about any hopes of influencing the project beyond the future center’s home. The big decisions, she said, belong to the developers and the landowner.

“It’s only through their good graces that we’ll be lucky enough to stay here,” she said.

“I’m just grateful that we can stay.”

In the announcement, Hugo House and the longtime property owners of the more than 100-year-old building said they are now working with a developer to determine “the exact mix of uses as part of the design and permitting process.” The announcement notes the property owners have “generously supported all facility costs, including rent” for Hugo House throughout its history. Continue reading

Balagan Theatre company bows out one year after leaving Capitol Hill

The Balagan Theatre company has announced it is breaking up one year after it moved out of its Capitol Hill home. Balagan’s incoming executive director said the theater company’s board had apparently been blindsided after discovering a large amount of debt that the company had no chance of repaying.

“This is not a decision that the board took lightly,” said board president Jim Griffin in a statement. “When viewing the big picture of our overall financial health, this was a difficult conclusion, but ultimately a responsible fiscal action to take.”

From 2011-2013 the Balagan troupe had used the Seattle Central College owned Erickson Theater Off Broadway on E Harvard Ave. After moving off the Hill, Balagan relocated its office to Interbay but continued to put on shows around the city.

An SCC spokesperson said the college is currently utilizing the Erickson Theater for classes and occasional special events.

After eight years of performances Balagan built a reputation for producing quirky and inventive shows. The loss to the Seattle theater scene was even noted by the New York Times earlier this week.

In the past year bad accounting practices have created problems at several other Capitol Hill nonprofits. Last year the Friends of the Volunteer Park Conservatory discovered their former treasurer had potentially embezzled thousands of dollars before leaving the state. CHS also uncovered a lawsuit last year that alleged the former director of an after school program at Stevens Elementary school had embezzled at least $236,000 for personal shopping trips and to pay for her kid’s college tuition.

Seattle Fringe: ‘a toehold in the neighborhood for risky, unusual, challenging, non-commercial arts’

The Famous Haydell Sisters Comeback Tour is part of 2014 Seattle Fringe Festival

The Famous Haydell Sisters Comeback Tour is part of 2014 Seattle Fringe Festival

NWFFmarquee

The marquee at the Northwest Film Forum advertising the Seattle Fringe Festival in 2013. The Film Forum is a Fringe Festival site again this year. (Image: Seattle Fringe Festival)

Ever-increasing pressure from commercial growth and development unfriendly to cash-strapped artistic ventures, venue allocation shifts and the logistics of having committed producers and planners who can keep things running year after year may keep it in a relatively constant flux. Despite these challenges Capitol Hill’s theater scene is showing some signs of renewed vitality in 2014 including the return of the reincarnated Seattle Fringe Festival that kicks off its third consecutive year with performances Wednesday.

The festival is bringing another five-day September wave of unpredictable performances to Capitol Hill venues just a few months before 12th Ave Arts is scheduled to open and provide dedicated homes to three small companies which will join the likes of Annex Theatre and the Eclectic Theater in producing smaller-scale theater in neighborhood’s core year round.

“The more Capitol Hill edges toward the mainstream, the more important it is to keep a toehold in the neighborhood for risky, unusual, challenging, non-commercial arts and entertainment,” Pamala Mijatov, a member of the Fringe Festival’s steering committee and artistic director at Annex told CHS in an email. “Seattle is growing and changing rapidly. As rents escalate, artists are getting squeezed out of the central neighborhoods, and there are fewer small production venues, which means fewer opportunities for artists to take risks on unproven work,” she wrote. “The Seattle Fringe Festival is maintaining a platform for those self-producing artists.” Continue reading

CHS Crow | Fringe edition — Leroy, Kelly, Mara & Benjamin

With the Seattle Fringe festival again playing out on Capitol Hill, the crow talked with some of the artists on the bill in 2014.

Leroy Chin, writer and director — Children of This Universe


What inspired this new work? It sounds like pretty intense material.
On Christmas Day of last year my ex committed suicide. I was completely distraught about it. And one of the ways I deal with things is I create stuff. And I ended up writing a play based on the experience. I think it was different for me this time, it just seemed to be so natural — it flowed well. I was inspired. And think it had to do — there must have been some sort of spiritual element about it that made it so easy to write.

… can you say more about that?
You could say he probably helped me from the other side, if you will.

Is this pretty raw for you to put out in front of an audience so soon? Or is that just part of your process?
I’m used to it by now. I think when I first started writing years ago, ’96 or so, that rawness was intimidating. I now I realize it has to feel that way to be effective. I think that’s where the real sharing of experience is. If it’s not that raw, it’s probably not worth sharing. Continue reading