After Seattle sets out to remind that Capitol Hill’s gentrification is man-made

Mudede (Image: Josh Kelety)

Mudede (Image: Josh Kelety)

With rents in Seattle still through the roof and Capitol Hill in a state of frenzied construction, Charles Mudede, film critic and writer for The Stranger, has brought together After Seattle, an exhibition of multi-media art documenting and acknowledging the period of intense transition Seattle is currently facing.

Mudede, who moved to Seattle in 1989, has seen Seattle in numerous states of existence, from the effects of “white-flight” on Seattle’s inner city during the 80s to the Microsoft boom of the 90s and the eventual suburban housing bubble collapse in 2008. But he says that the “frenetic” economic activity of the Amazon era represents and even greater shift due to the sudden massive concentration of capital within the city, and the resulting warping face of the city he once knew.

“This particular boom hit me forcefully,” said Mudede. “this is new and it’s going to have consequences.”

He maintains the show won’t try to predict with absolute certainty what will come out of Seattle’s current throes of evolution. “I just wanted to do a show that didn’t say what exactly, where all this would lead, but just to recognize that it has to go somewhere.”

The show opens at 12th Ave’s Hedreen Gallery on Thursday night, and will run for one month. Featured artists include Tendai Maraie from the experimental hip hop group Shabazz Palaces, Seattle civil engineer Cary Moon, photographer Virginia Wilcox, and musician and Beatles descendant Sean Ono Lennon. The works range from photography of strangers around Capitol Hill to a film bombarding the viewer with data about the various ways Seattle is changing.

With pessimism and disapproval of the physical, cultural, and demographic changes in Seattle in no short supply, Mudede says he’s “a lot more confused” about the changes than some — he says he enjoys some aspects of a rapidly growing city such as more people and strangers, higher density, and a buzzing atmosphere of a town awash with new activity, somewhat akin to “New York City” as he puts it.

“You can feel it. I go to bars now and I feel very much not in the same city,” Mudede said.

But despite this he says the harsh realities of the gentrification process are hard to reconcile, especially as a marxist, he said.

“We live in a city where we believe we’re ‘liberal’, and liberals are supposed to be tolerant and cosmopolitan …. [But] the problem is power is in the form of money and it’s really hard to contest that force. It’s going to shape the way cities work,” he said.

The Hill’s collective neighborhood anxiety about development stems from the rapid gentrification of a former gay ghetto, he says. “[it was] A place where people who wanted to be together because the mainstream community rejected them, [who] were stuck in this part of town so you could basically walk and hold hands and not be bothered by people.”

“That’s what I saw when I first came to Capitol Hill,” he said, “that was the best part of it.”

Today, Mudede lives in a home in Columbia City on a street with families of numerous ethnic backgrounds. He acknowledges the area is also being reshaped by predominantly white-owned capital, just at a slower pace than the Hill and other parts of Seattle.

Mudede isn’t planning After Seattle as funeral. It should be a “party,” he says. There are still a few elements to add including a still to be scheduled debate on the changes in the city between Mudede and neighborhood entrepreneur David Meinert.

Mudede wants After Seattle viewers to see that the process of gentrification and the market forces of capitalism that spur it are human engineered circumstances.

“Concentration of wealth is a cultural thing, it’s not a natural thing,” he said.

After Seattle opens Thursday, April 9th and runs through May 9th at Hedreen Gallery, 901 12th Ave.

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14 thoughts on “After Seattle sets out to remind that Capitol Hill’s gentrification is man-made

  1. Not to be too pedantic–ok, maybe it is a bit pedantic–but “Mudede, who moved to Seattle in 1989, has seen Seattle in numerous states of existence, from the effects of “white-flight” on Seattle’s inner city during the 80s…” makes little sense, unless all white flight occurred in 1989.

    • Also, I wonder if Mudede is aware of the irony of featuring art by Sean Lennon Ono, who would fall under the “inherited wealth” class generally criticized by Marxists. In fact, Marx himself wanted to abolish inheritance as a necessity to a just society.

    • The story says he *moved* here in 1989, not that he first visited Seattle that year. I don’t know his circumstances, but when I moved here in 2010 I was thoroughly familiar with local trends and issues after many years of regular visits.

      • Fair enough, though as a more recent transplant, I’m continuously told that I don’t really understand anything about previous trends or scenes in the area because I wasn’t here at the time. And there’s some truth to that; it’s different to read about change than to be in the middle of it, or to experience it.

  2. If Charles and others are upset with gentrification on The Hill, then where in the Hell is the outrage about the Harvard Exit being turned into office space? This crime against arts and culture has been completely ignored by Mudede, The Stranger and the rest of the media even though they have been contacted about this abomination.

    If The Stranger can work up years of lather regarding the downtown tunnel, then why can’t they even put 1/100th the effort into saving this jewel of a theatre?

    Go to http://www.facebook.com/savetheexit and fight back. Also, there will be a Capitol Hill Community Council meeting addressing gentrification next Thursday at Cal Anderson Community Center. Come and express your anger about what is happening to The Exit.

    What is happening to The Exit alone is the poster child of Capitol Hill gentrification.

    • Carla, there was plenty of community outrage after it was announced that the Exit was closing. But a short while later, it was obvious that this was a done deal, and no amount of further outrage would make a difference. Although we will all miss the place, I think it’s time to accept the reality and move on. At least the external aspects of the beautiful building will be preserved for posterity.

    • Carla,
      As a former employee of the Harvard Exit I was on a panel discussion with Mr. Mudede and others held at NWFF discussing just such a topic. This event was in January, shortly after the closing of the Exit.

  3. I think that as somebody born in Seattle I am entitled to decide on the future course of this city. I hate the fact that my city is thriving and progressing. All of these new people are lazy. Especially the people that shop in my vegan gluten free independent anti-capitalist coffee shop. I would prefer that people like me go out of business than accept money from people who work at Amazon. After all, if there were no major businesses in Seattle bringing money to our local economy, we could support a fifty dollar minimum wage.

    Furthermore I am a Marxist. All Marxist experiments in history show that this is a superior form of society. It is my belief that no matter how hard somebody works, they should live the exact same life as somebody who lacks motivation and contributes nothing to society. We should imprison all the entrepreneurs and aristocrats and steal all their property. Only then will Seattle be a great place to live.

    If only we could go back to the Seattle of the 1850’s. Things were much more equitable then.