Writers, teachers, and members in the community around Capitol Hill’s Hugo House are calling for the resignation of the nonprofit’s leader for failing to adequately respond to calls for change born out of the Black Lives Matter marches and occupied protest this summer on the streets outside the 11th Ave literary center across from Cal Anderson Park.
UPDATE: Representatives for the group calling for the resignation tell CHS their “advocacy to reform Hugo House has been ongoing for several years.”
“This latest push came as a pushback to (Hugo House’s) performative statement on race equity sparked by the events in summer of 2020,” Shankar Narayan, an advocate involved in the effort, writes. “So it was a response to HH’s false effort to capitalize on BLM, not BLM itself” that inspired the effort.
In an open letter from July, a group of writers and members were joined by a list of around 200 signatories criticizing executive director Tree Swenson and Hugo House over “structural and systemic racism” and the nonprofit’s failure to serve as “a welcoming and supportive place for writers of all races” — Continue reading →
Intiman Theater, set to make a new home on Capitol Hill in an innovative partnership at Seattle Central hoped to create opportunities for BIPOC stage and performance workers, has announced a new leader to help guide its move into the new neighborhood.
Amy Zimerman has joined Intiman as its new managing director and will lead the organization alongside artistic director Jennifer Zeyl.
The nonprofit veteran will guide Intiman as it develops a new associate degree program emphasis in Technical Theatre for Social Justice at Seattle Central with training and roles for diverse designers, lighting techs, and theater crews.
The new partnership and program slated to start in fall of 2021 will put Intiman to work on Seattle Central’s stages inside Harvard Ave’s Erickson Theater and inside the Broadway Performance Hall and puts an end of the recent wanderings of Intiman productions and, hopefully, years of financial uncertainty.
The theater group hopes to raise $1.5 million as part of its move to Capitol Hill. You can learn more and donate here.
HELP KEEP CHS 'PAY WHAT YOU CAN' FOR EVERYONE -- SUBSCRIBE TODAY! Support local journalism dedicated to your neighborhood. SUBSCRIBE HERE. Join to become a subscriber at $1/$5/$10 a month to help CHS provide community news with NO PAYWALL. You can also sign up for a one-time annual payment.
One of Capitol Hill’s leading affordable housing and arts activists Michael Seiwerath is taking his expertise to South Seattle as the new Executive Director of SouthEast Effective Development(SEED). Recently the Vice President of Advancement and External Affairs at Community Roots Housing (formerly Capitol Hill Housing), Seiwerath oversaw fund development, communications, and government relations for the nonprofit since 2008. During that time he was the founding Executive Director of the Community Roots Housing Foundation, an independent nonprofit that helped fund Community Roots. He was also an important part of creating 12th Avenue Arts, and establishing the Capitol Hill Arts District in 2014, the first of the city’s arts districts. At SEED, he will work with partners like HomeSite, Rainer City Arts, and the City of Seattle to create affordable housing, arts and economic development for Columbia and Hillman Cities.
Before joining Community Roots Housing, Seiwerath was the Executive Director of Northwest Film Forum. During his 12 years there, Seiwerath helped start the state’s first nonprofit cinema, The Grand Illusion Theater, and oversaw the NW Film Forum’s development of its current home on 12th. (12 seems to be a magic number for Seiwerath.) He is also a film producer, having worked with Charles Mudede on films like Police Beat in 2005 and last year’s Thin Skin.
As he looks back on a legacy of creating lasting affordable housing and arts spaces on Capitol Hill, Seiwerath shared his reflections with CHS about what has changed, and what hasn’t.
Some answers have been edited or condensed for brevity.
What are some reflections on your last 12 years of working for greater affordable housing and preserving arts spaces on the Hill?
Well, it’s hard when you’ve been working on something for a decade and it’s only gotten worse. It’s encouraging that our elected officials now recognize the scale of the homelessness and affordability crisis. That’s progress. We’re still not there yet on the political will to prioritize sufficient resources to solve the problem.
A positive thing I’ve seen in [my] 12 years is partnerships. 12th Avenue Arts was an innovative partnership with performing arts groups, nonprofits, [and] affordable housing in the city. Liberty Bank Building is a partnership with a higher capacity, long standing developer and Black-led community based organizations in the Central District. We’re doing it again with Africatown Plaza across the street, and the LGBTQ-affirming low-income senior housing on Broadway. I’m really proud the goal is to have GenPRIDE own its ground floor home.” Continue reading →
The V2 project was temporary — there are hopes for more permanent outcomes from the Cultural Space Agency
The City of Seattle has established a Public Development Authority (PDA) with the hope of creating shared cultural spaces and supporting local artists.
The move might be a last hope for arts organizations in a neighborhood like Capitol Hill that has transitioned from cheap auto row-era spaces perfect for galleries, studios, and dive bars. The latest victim here is Velocity Dance which gave up its 24-year struggle against rising rents and the COVID-19 crisis and has now given up its 12th Ave home.
The Cultural Space Agency, which will be partnered with the PDA, will look to build community wealth and invest in communities of color as a real estate investment company focused on spaces for the arts. For example, it could partner with the city’s Equitable Development Initiative on real estate deals to ensure cultural space is included, and working with the Office of Housing to purchase ground-floor units in new developments to give ownership opportunities to small businesses, said Randy Engstrom, director of Seattle’s Office of Arts and Culture.
The city has set aside $1 million for the next two years for the PDA’s operating costs with the hopes of getting investments from philanthropists for projects.
“We’re doing it to make sure that, as we come out of COVID, that we not only preserve but we protect that part of our city that really is its soul: the arts and culture,” Mayor Jenny Durkan told reporters Tuesday morning. “And that we make sure that we do it in a way that can be more equitable and that our recovery is one that actually does bridge the gap to prosperity for everyone.” Continue reading →
A symbol of the neighborhood’s efforts to bring its arts organizations and venues forward amid gentrification and soaring rents, Velocity Dance Center has announced it is leaving its Capitol Hill home due to “financial hardship brought on by the pandemic and government-mandated closures” during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
“As Velocity takes this step to stabilize amidst uncertainty, we recognize and make room for the grief and joy that mark growth and change,” the center’s announcement reads. “We are reminded that it is all of you who make Velocity a place of creativity, connection, and care. We are so grateful for all the memories we’ve made together in the space. We understand your grief. We feel it too. But we are also excited to be more flexible. To have the ability to look forward to future programming, collaborations, and a new future home.”
Velocity has been facing the challenge of a possible end to its 12th Ave center in recent years as the nonprofit faced the pressures of the increasingly expensive neighborhood. Continue reading →
Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore’s new memoir The Freezer Door, available November 24th, describes a search for belonging and connection in pre-COVID times — a story told through vignettes of desire, intimacy and social interaction in bars and public spaces on Capitol Hill. She wondered if it would still be relevant during its pandemic release.
“I was worried because I wrote the book very much in a present tense and it’s very much about what I consider now,” Sycamore said. “[But I’ve found] the themes of loneliness and alienation and the search for connection are actually even more accessible to people.”
Told in a mix of prose and poetry, Sycamore takes the reader through her daily life experiences visiting Capitol Hill landmarks from Volunteer Park to the Broadway Market, all the while reflecting on queerness, embodiment, trauma, loss, desire, belonging and the gentrification of the neighborhood and city at large. Continue reading →
Someday, actors will again put Seattle Central’s Capitol Hill theater spaces back to work. When the lights come up, the spotlight will fall on a new partnership for the Broadway school that will shine light on social justice — and equity in the vital theater roles behind the scenes.
Last week, the college announced it is making a new home for longtime Seattle arts group the Intiman Theater that will create a new associate degree program emphasis in Technical Theatre for Social Justice at the school — and help to provide training and roles for diverse designers, lighting techs, and theater crews.
“We look forward to working with Intiman to provide students with a pathway into the world of technical theater. This partnership is a vivid model of how to better serve our students and how to close the opportunity gaps in our community,” college president Dr. Sheila EdwardsLange said in a statement. Continue reading →
That Notice of Proposed Land Use Action sign that has gone up outside Neumos is, fortunately for Capitol Hill music lovers, only a warning.
They’re going up across the city outside the Tractor Tavern, El Corazon, Central Saloon, Wild Buffalo, Jazz Bones and more of Seattle’s remaining live music venues.
But fortunately, nobody has decided to sell out and redevelop the corner of 10th and E Pike — yet.
“These signs are a call to action for the public, designed to raise awareness about the stark reality that permanent closure of these venues could occur if we do not, as a community, come together to keep music live,” write backers of a campaign to support Neumos and the rest of the live music scene in Seattle and across the state. Continue reading →
Volunteer Park’s Seattle Asian Art Museum won’t be part of the Seattle Art Museum’s reopening after closing five months ago due to the COVID-19 restrictions.
SAM announced its reopening plans Monday after statewide restrictions (PDF) on museums — and bowling alleys! — were loosened :
The Seattle Art Museum (SAM) reopens its downtown museum to the general public on Friday, September 11. The museum will initially be at a limited capacity and open Fridays through Sundays, 10 am–5 pm. SAM Shop and SAM Gallery will also reopen. TASTE Café at SAM, the Seattle Asian Art Museum, and the PACCAR Pavilion at the Olympic Sculpture Park remain closed until further notice. Timed tickets will be sold online only beginning September 4 for the September 11 general public reopening.
1984 at 18th and Union (Image: 18th and Union Theater)
When the pandemic shuttered Seattle’s theaters and playhouses in March, the Central District’s 18th & Union was in the middle of an adaption of George Orwell’s dystopian novel “1984.” By the third week of production, it became clear the venue had to close.
“I think we were lucky that we at least got three solid weekends in before closing,” actor K. Brian Neel said. “I know a lot of theater artists who had to close shows right before opening or right towards the end of the rehearsal process and that would’ve been frustrating.”
According to state reopening guidelines, live entertainment falls under Phase 4 — the final stage — and King County has lingered in Phase 2 for over a month now. As cases rise across the county and Washington rolls back phased reopening, theater companies and accompanying venues are tasked with adapting live theater to an online format or staying closed indefinitely.
And for those planning to reopen in some capacity with live actors, performances will look markedly different.
Theaters reopening or not? 18th & Union is planning to live stream shows out of its space this fall with up to two cast members six feet apart. Producing director David Gassner says the venue has multiple shows — yet to be announced — lined up for September, and the studio is setting up with cameras and other necessary equipment.
“There won’t be any stage combat, there won’t be any kissing, there won’t be any touching — so we’re having to choose the kind of shows that we present knowing that those are the constraints,” Gassner said. Continue reading →