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After Capitol Hill move and bid to overhaul business, City Arts will cease publication

After the briefest of residencies in Capitol Hill’s “independent media two-block radius,” Seattle’s City Arts magazine is folding.

The sad news was announced Thursday morning:

For now, we take heart in the beautiful prism of countless people who’ve been with us on this ride and we trust that our legacy lives somewhere in those beams of light. Whether you’re a reader, an artist, a contributor, a fan or a supporter, thank you for being a part of this experience. We’ll never forget it.

The news follows the magazine’s summer move to Capitol Hill where it took up residence in the The Cloud Room coworking space above Liz Dunn’s 11th Ave preservation-friendly Chophouse Row office and retail development. “City Arts Magazine tells stories of the people and places we call home, and by doing so helps the Seattle-area community get to know each other better – our ideas, our beliefs and our passions,” Dunn said at the time.

The Capitol Hill stay is a smaller footnote on a larger story. The for-profit magazine’s sudden demise comes after its quest to go independent after splitting from glossy arts program publisher Encore Media Group.

In the announcement of the decision to stop printing, City Arts editor in chief Leah Baltus, publisher Andy Fife, and staff wrote about the effort to transition to new sources of revenue and stay alive providing arts coverage in Seattle:

Last spring our longtime former parent company reached the point where it could no longer subsidize our operations, as it had done since our inception. Rather than fold, we decided to make the leap into independence and become a social purpose corporation. Readers supported us via a crowdfunding campaign, and we began internal efforts to raise the $1.2 million we’d need to build a new membership program for individuals and corporations. In the next few years, the revenue generated by that program would make our new business model sustainable in the long term.

In the end, City Arts said the support they could raise wasn’t enough to support the business. “Since this transition began in early April, we’ve been deeply moved by the community’s enthusiasm for our work and our plans,” they write. “Some brave believers contributed significant resources that made the last few months possible, but there just wasn’t enough financial support to buy us the time required for full transformation.”

According to the announcement, City Arts could live on in a smaller, cheaper incarnation “such as a smaller all-digital platform.”

Despite the end of the magazine, Capitol Hill continues to foster a small but sturdy core of independent media. The Stranger is its brightest example. No longer an “alt weekly,” the media and news company was on the verge of bailing on Capitol Hill during a wave of pressure around 11th Ave development but a friendly landmarks ruling and a change of heart helped keep the venture in the middle of Pike/Pine’s entertainment district inside the auto row-era White Motor Company building. 12th Ave’s Northwest Film Forum, meanwhile, has pivoted to become a media and arts hub, housing offices for indigenous arts group Longhouse MediaTasveer, producer of Seattle’s South Asian film festival, and media nonprofit Seattle Globalist. Other smaller players like marijuana-focused Top Tree Media have come and gone. The neighborhood’s longtime newspaper reportedly continues to be printed though CHS reported here on the California-based publisher’s reduced effort around the neighborhood and increased focus on other areas of the city including Madison Park.

Meanwhile CHS itself has undergone a “pivot” of its business. After a summer break last year, the site returned in October 2017 and is now mostly supported by more than 700 subscribers.


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catherine hillenbrand
catherine hillenbrand
2 years ago

this is such a loss – It’s been amazing having City Arts.

2 years ago

How sad. I love CityArts, one of the best free magazines ever.