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Central District’s Midtown Square will feature massive ‘external art’ — These eight artists will create the works

The public process to approve the design of the Midtown Square development was stuck until developers incorporated a plan for large installations of art panels hoped to help the project better reflect the culture and the history of the Central District. With the old strip mall torn down and the construction underway at 23rd and Union, details of the artists who will create those works have been announced.

A panel representing “several Central District based organizations and African American artists,” has selected eight artists for “a commitment of more than $225,000 in dedicated local artwork for the new project,” developer Lake Union Partners announced this week.

“As artists responded to the theme, Reverence and Discovery, which was how the community feedback was interpreted, it became more and more clear just how dynamic the arts program at the location could be,” Vivian Phillips, Midtown Square arts plan consultant, said in the announcement. “The selected artists represent a range from seasoned to emerging, a diversity of ages, all with some level of connection to the Central Area, and a range of concepts that work together to illustrate a proud history and an inspired future.”

Here are the eight artists selected:

  • Myron Curry. As a self-taught artist whose spirit comes through in his art, Curry will incorporate art that pays reverence to past leaders while using young images to spark imagination at the Midtown Square’s 23rd & Union Plaza.
  • Adam Jabari Jefferson. Designed to incorporate a high level of community involvement, Jefferson will focus on creating the building’s “face” with a series of photographic images in a panelized 2D triptych on the upper building facades of Midtown Square’s Northeast Building.
  • Henry Jackson-Spieker (collaborating with KT Hancock). As a former student at youth arts center Coyote Central, Jackson-Spieker will create an exterior overhead lighting installation featuring imagery of significant community members on the 2nd floor brick spandrel of Midtown Square’s 23rd Ave. portal.
  • Barry Johnson. As a multi-media artist known for playing with varying imagery and patterns, Johnson will create a large, textural abstract multi-panel 2-D composition meant to evoke a sense of imagination and artistry to be placed at the Midtown Square’s northwest building.
  • Yegizaw Michael. With a focus on using wood materials to create a Central District timeline encompassing the entirety of the corner at the Midtown Square’s 23rd & Union Plaza, Michael will create a volumetric installation utilizing the high undercut space.
  • Perri Rhoden. As an emerging young artist, Rhoden will paint a mural at the 24th Avenue portal as her first major commission, with imagery focusing on the theme of welcome that will complement the entire space.
  • Juan Alonso Rodriguez. With an approach focused on honoring the neighborhood’s natural elements Rodriguez will install at the 24th Avenue and Union Plaza, a 2D street-level wall-mounted piece representing the native hollyhock plants that are deeply rooted and resilient.
  • Takiyah Ward. Incorporating the location name, “Central District,” in her piece, Ward will create an approximately 120-foot long mural and imagery-based timeline providing a colorful backdrop for events at Midtown’s Central Square.

The Midtown Square arts panel included Angela Brown of Pratt Fine Arts Center, Brace Evans, Performing Artist, Leilani Lewis, Independent Cultural Curator, Stephanie Johnson-Toliver, Black Heritage Society of Washington State President, Margo Jones, AfricaTown Community Land Trust Board Chair and Owner of A Personal Point of View, Eve Sanford, Pratt Fine Arts Programs Director and HCAACD Member, Claudia Stelle, Coyote Central Executive Director, Earnest Thomas, Onyx Fine Arts Collective President, Tim Lennon, Kathy Fowells, and Benote Hill.

Midtown Square will fill the site of the former Midtown Center shopping strip with a three-piece, seven-story mixed-use apartment development with 428 market-rate and affordable apartment units, a quasi-public central plaza, and a huge underground parking garage. Regional pharmacy chain Bartell Drugs is planned to occupy the large retail space on the corner of 23rd and Union with a mix of smaller, more neighborhood focused retail and restaurant spaces surrounding the inner square, — “with a goal of renting to local, minority-owned businesses,” Lake Union Partners says.

With Midtown Square slated to open in the fall of 2021, the selected artists will begin meeting with site contractors at the beginning of 2020 to start exploring fabrication needs and timing for their artworks,” the developers said.

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16 thoughts on “Central District’s Midtown Square will feature massive ‘external art’ — These eight artists will create the works” -- All CHS Comments are held for moderation before publishing

  1. Considering the selection criteria, it seems implausible that there would only be two women awarded out of the 8 artists selected.

  2. I wish more developments in the city were doing things like this to incorporate the neighborhood’s history and improve the development with artwork made by local artists.

  3. Hopefully it’ll be all african-American inspired art!!!!

    Need to recognize the history of the CD. And it’s about time 23rd and Union got Pan-African colors on the crosswalk!

    • Yes!

      Here’s hoping we get the usual “African American inspired” art we see in the Northwest!

      Which is basically like some middle aged white woman went to Pier One with explicit instructions to buy “something African,” and took that to mean a bunch of ugly beads, garish colors, and animal prints.

      Oh and gross woven baskets and trinkets made of literal trash….like Coca Cola can lions and oversized giraffe carvings.

      Because, you know….

      • Except block people were forced to move here against their will and redlined in. Much different than a Jew ghetto that got rich and left.

        People are so damn ignorant about this topic. Natives being kicked out is very bad and wrong but that doesn’t change or make it worse than the African American experience, which I find to be one of the worst in history in terms of treatment.

    • Agree, but I also think that there should be some art recognizing the fact that there used to be large numbers of Jewish people in the CD.

  4. This is like sprawling subdivisions named “Maple Ridge”. Shitty tract housing constructed on a hill that formerly had a stand of maple trees. The building will be full of self-loathing Resistance Millennials bemoaning displacement, “colonization” and capitalism.

  5. We need to get a print graftic shop in the retail shop.
    David Gorilla Graffic. A Black own print shop on Rainier Ave S, down in Columbian City.
    Not one that have mailing & shipping. Do not want nor need compating wit my Community Children Postman Postal Shipping Services just 6 blocks down the road @ 1134 MLKING WAY and East Union Street.
    Community Elder
    Robert Stephens Jr.

  6. The small retail spots and Restaurant spots should all be owned and Operated by African American people who have deep Cultural History in this area …. I’m praying that it be all African inspired art nothing else nothing more.. Let us keep our identity here in the central district stop coming in and Trying to reclaim something that was never yours… These Amazonians coming need to Retreat back to Bellevue or Kirkland… we are not going anywhere… We will stay by any means Necessary. #MakeRacistAfraidAgain #DonothingMayorDurkan