About Margo Vansynghel

Margo Vansynghel is a journalist and photographer based in Seattle. She covers news, human interest, business, art and lifestyle for newspapers and magazines and makes documentary photography series.

Central Area Chamber of Commerce gears up for Juneteenth — and a new chapter

The chamber’s Pitre showed the mayor the neighborhood in April (Image: CHS)

On bad days, Lawrence Pitre feels like he’s just rolling a rock up a hill. Like he’s not quite honoring the legacy of DeCharlene Williams who founded the Central Area Chamber of Commerce Pitre now leads from an office in the DeCharlene’s Beauty Salon storefront on E Madison.

“There are days that I come in here and just want to close the door and go: ’Okay, DeCharlene (…) help me here. How am I supposed to do this?’” Pitre says. Before Williams died last year, Pitre promised her he would continue the chamber’s legacy of community-building in the Central District.

Though there are times Pitre feels small against the forces of displacement and gentrification of the CD, he has kept his promise. In April, DeCharlene’s Beauty Salon, and the neighboring office reopened after a renovation and chamber rebranding — the beginning of a new chapter.

The Central Area Chamber’s revival stands in stark contrast with the recent shuttering of the nearby Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce and its ambitious but unsuccessful effort to create an expanded business area. Continue reading

No axes for the hammered? Blade and Timber wants to sell alcohol but liquor board not keen on mixing sharp objects and beer

“Booze and axes, what could possibly go wrong?” one CHS commenter asked after the axe-tossing bar Blade and Timber made its Capitol Hill debut late March.

It’s a common question, but for Blade and Timber, it comes with a caveat: its bar is completely dry.

Securing a liquor license has proven harder than expected. The Kansas-headquartered company applied for a beer-only license for its Capitol Hill outpost but withdrew when the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board made clear it does not like mixing alcohol and axes.

But Blade and Timber is not ready to give up. Continue reading

On the List | Capitol Hill Queer Art Walk, Portshowlio, Well Plaid Seattle Quake Rugby fundraiser

Portshowlio 2019 showcases the work of Seattle Central design and visual media graduates

Another week in June, another Pride-focused seven days ahead. Some queer business-focused events to mark your calendars for: a workshop on how to build a trans-inclusive workplace on Friday, another on “queering your career” and being yourself in the workplace at The Riveter next Wednesday. Future For Us hosts a “Know your rights in the workplace” panel for women of color this Thursday.

Gastronomes can continue to enjoy the vegan (dessert) revolution currently happening on the Hill, as Sugar Plum chef Making Howell hosts a multi-course plant-based dessert tasting menu.

And, while Seattle waits for the Museum of Museums to open near Broadway, there’s plenty more art to see this week — especially during Queer Art Walk. Find our artistic and other picks on the list below, and head over to the CHS Pride Calendar and CHS Calendar for more events.

WEDNESDAY, June 12 – THURSDAY, June 13: June is not just Pride month, it’s also graduation time. Find out what the graduating class of Seattle Central Creative Academy has been up to during Portshowlio 2019, a showcase of the work from over 60 design and visual media graduates, which includes fashion and street photography, a brutalist architecture guide, a 14-foot screen featuring Pacific Northwest drone footage, advertising campaigns for Capitol Hill Block Party Campaign and even a Tamagotchi phone app design. Seattle Central College (5th floor), 5 – 9 PM

WEDNESDAY, June 12: The Capitol Hill institution Vermillion is still standing. Eleven years after starting the art gallery/bar, it is a holdout in a very different neighborhood. Celebrate Vermillion’s 11th birthday with cake, snacks, a raffle with wine and tickets to Alternative Pride and boogie, soul, funk, and jazz. Vermillion, 8 – 11 PM Continue reading

A new contemporary art museum will open this year in derelict office building on First Hill

Boarded up windows, graffiti and overgrown vines. For the last year, that was the view for anyone walking, biking, driving or riding the streetcar past the beige midcentury building on the intersection of Boylston Ave, Marion, and Broadway.

Not for much longer. By this fall, the former office building owned by Swedish Health Services will reopen as a contemporary art museum, courtesy of Greg Lundgren of Vito’s and The Hideout and art production company Vital 5 Productions. With Vital 5, Lundgren has organized sweeping temporary exhibitions in buildings slated for development during the Seattle Art Fair in 2016 and 2017.

Last week, Lundgren signed a lease on the First Hill problem property, a midcentury building that belongs to Swedish Health Services and for years operated as a medical office and retail space (selling prosthetics for people with breast cancer) and most recently a storage facility. The building stood empty for at least a year.

“Right now it looks like a haunted house,” Lundgren says of the first floor when CHS met him in the building, dusty and full of knocked-out wooden beams and walls, the windows still boarded up. “I think in a couple of months it’s going to be pretty special.” Continue reading

The Cookie Counter, a sweet new business partner with vegan ice cream sandwiches and pink walls, comes to Capitol Hill’s Gay City

(Image: Brie DiFelici with permission)

Gay City neighbor Kaladi Brothers Coffee moved back to its former, overhauled space a few doors down late last year. Now the LGBTQ+ community, resource, health, and arts center has a new business partner to add to its mix: The Cookie Counter, a Greenwood-based dessert shop and café for vegan pastries, cookies and ice cream.

The Capitol Hill outpost of The Cookie Counter, which will also keep its Greenwood shop open, is slated to open in the last week of June, with the grand opening coinciding with Seattle’s Pride weekend.

“To be in that space [Kaladi’s] will be nostalgic for us,” said Chelsea Keene, who co-founded The Cookie Counter with her husband Chris Olson. Both longtime vegans, the couple started making and selling vegan ice cream sandwiches out of their ’74 Volkswagen bus in 2014. “When Chris and I lived on the hill, the previous Kaladi Brothers Coffee space at Gay City was our favorite coffee shop.”

The couple opened their pastel-tinted shop in Greenwood in 2016. The Capitol Hill location will seat around 30 people, approximately 10 more than the Greenwood shop, though the millennial pink color palette will stay the same. Continue reading

On the List | Hair Flip Comix, Volunteer Park Pride Festival, POOPU craft market

Thunderpussy headlines Saturday Volunteer Park Pride Festival

Hair Flip cover by Grace Kroll

Pride is in full swing, and although we’ll have to wait until June 30 for the city’s 45th annual Seattle Pride Parade, there’s plenty to do in the meantime. A portion of the ticket sales for More Than Just Beer: PRIDE in Craft at The Riveter and PRIDE in Education at Queer/Bar will benefit Lambert House, a local community center for LGBTQ+ youth.

Other events to look out for include the QTPOC June Social get together at Mezcaleria Oaxaca’s Hill location, as well as a Planning Committee Meeting for PNW Black Pride at Gay City. And, of course, the Volunteer Park Pride Festival this Saturday. Find the festival’s line-up and much more on the list of things to do below, or head over to the CHS Capitol Hill Pride Calendar and CHS Calendar for more events.

THURSDAY, June 6 : Zine culture is alive and well in Seattle. HAIR FLIP, a new local art and comics quarterly (formerly printed under the name Thick as Thieves) celebrates new beginnings at Fred Wildlife Refuge with a party and fundraiser. Bands Great Spiders, Familiars, and DJ SICK SID will provide the soundtrack for zine-browsing at tables from artists like Max Clotfelter and James Stanton, and underground art and comics hub Push/Pull as well as a raffle featuring cameras, light boxes, Kindles and mystery packages from sex toy and accessories retailer Babeland. Fred Wildlife Refuge, 7 – 12 PM Continue reading

With selection of artist Chris Jordan and preview works going up for Pride, AIDS Memorial Pathway moves forward connecting Capitol Hill Station to Cal Anderson

Artist Chris Jordan at the site where the pathway will begin (Image: Margo Vansynghel for CHS)

“I am trembling,” wrote Tacoma-based artist Christopher Paul Jordan on social media after the announcement that he had been selected from a pool of artists from all over the country to produce the centerpiece artwork for the AIDS Memorial Pathway. The pathway and plaza, expected to open in June 2020 along with the mixed-use, transit-oriented developments surrounding it, will connect Capitol Hill Station to Cal Anderson Park. When finished, the plaza will also host the weekly Capitol Hill Farmers Market.

Portland-based artist Horatio Hung-Yan Law shaped the art plan for the public-private project. “It’s not an AIDS memorial, but a memorial pathway,” Law told CHS. “We have the luxury of not trying to express everything in one memorial. There are so many aspects to [HIV/AIDS]; that’s hard to sum up or put in one piece.” Continue reading

On the List | Capitol Hill Clean Sweep kicks off Pride, Bite of Greece, Rainier Chapter House celebration

It’s almost June, which means Pride Month is upon us. Seattle’s Pride Month officially kicks off this Saturday, with a Pride Concert on Seattle Central’s North Plaza featuring musicals, “dark and sultry interpretations” of  ’80s and ’90s songs and the Capitol Hill Doggie Drag Costume Contest, as well as speeches commemorating the 50th anniversary of the rebellion at the Stonewall Inn.

For more activism history, head over to 12th Avenue Arts, where the play Don’t Call it a Riot!” opens this Thursday. Local playwright Amontaine Aurore delves into the city’s activist history, from the Black Panther Party to the WTO protests.

Visit 13th Ave for roasted lamb, gyros, souvlaki, and spanakopita — one of the many menu options at this weekend’s Bite of Greece Seattle food festival.

We’ve lined up more things to do (seeing kaleidoscope and other art) and eat (such as eating ice cream sandwiches), on the list below. Find more things to do on the CHS Calendar.

THURSDAY, May 30: Two years ago, local artist Greg Lundgren purchased a vintage kaleidoscope at a swap meet. He’s since become somewhat possessed by the optical instrument’s beauty and whimsy and has been making his own kaleidoscopes with the help of cut jewels found on the internet, Goodwill-bought costume jewelry, and art glass. Tonight’s your last chance to see the resulting kaleidoscope-pattern-bedazzled exhibition, titled “1977.” The Factory, 6-9 PM Continue reading

Hoping to follow the equitable development example of the Liberty Bank Building, Africatown Plaza begins to take shape

Community members discuss their priorities for the Africatown Plaza project (Image: CHS)

“Welcome to what we now call sacred ground,” said K. Wyking Garrett, standing in the still bare-bones corner space of the Liberty Bank Building where a new restaurant by That Brown Girl Cooks will land this summer. His comments marked the start of the first community design meeting for the planned Africatown Plaza affordable housing and commercial retail development on 23rd and Union.

Thursday’s meeting gave a first glimpse into what Africatown Community Land Trust, of which Garrett is president and CEO, plans for the site, and was a first step in the design process that is supposed the mirror and exceed the success of the affordable housing development Liberty Bank Building. The opening of the building this spring signaled the start of what is hoped to be a wave of equitable development across the Central District.

“We are here today to talk about the next project, the next building (…) across the street. Which will be similar, but we will improve on what we’ve done here,” Garrett said. Continue reading

On the List | Spice Waala for Lifelong, #adulting, ‘raised cakes’ at Raised Doughnuts

(Image: Raised Doughnuts)

The Seattle International Film Festival kicked off last week but will be bringing movies from all over the world to Capitol Hill’s Egyptian theatre and movie theaters around the city until June 9. Some notable screenings at The Egyptian this week include a new Woodstock documentary and a feel-good flick from Gurinder Chadha (Bend it Like Beckham).

Cinephiles are in luck with another film festival at the Northwest Film Forum happening this week, focused on Brazilian films addressing race, gender, and sexuality. Those with young kids can find refuge at the Central Cinema, where Thursdays are for two hours of free classic cartoons with food and drink specials.

Another hot ticket this Thursday: The Moth Mainstage at Benaroya Hall. We’ve lined up more things to do, such as pie-eating and poetry brunching, on the list below. Find more events on the CHS Calendar.

WEDNESDAY, May 22: Sometimes event concepts do not need to be complex to be supremely enjoyable. Case in point: Rain City Slam’s “Lyric Slam.” The idea? Bring a song and compete with it as poetry. That’s it. That is literally all you need to do (besides, we assume, kicking ass) to win the Lyric Slam Crown. Tickets are $3-5 sliding scale. Jai Thai, 8 PM Continue reading