This Fall Velocity hosted a Community Forum on sustainability. Participants shared ideas about how to sustain our creative communities economically, socially, and environmentally.

I thought the conversation would come down to artists lamenting their lack of financial
resources. But to my surprise they identified the biggest challenge to their sustainability,
as how their work as artists, was not valued by society—and how they internalize that
lack of value.

I recently asked a Washington State artist with a successful career in Europe, what it
would take for him to come home. He said: ‘For what I do to be valued by my society.’

A Capitol Hill Arts District says: We VALUE artists. It says culture matters. It recognizes
the Arts as ESSENTIAL to the health of our communities.

And it highlights, and ensures for future generations, the rich cultural assets of the hill.

We need- VISION:

What is exceptional about the current 12th Arts Ave Corrider is its many artist centered, artist-driven organizations – hubs that harness resources for LOCAL independent artists, and recognize them as the creative entrepreneurs they are. With an Artist Service organization on one end, and a Masters Program in arts administration at SeattleU on the other – it has within it multiple, dynamic hives fostering innovative, independent literary arts, film, photography, theater, dance, performance and hybrid practices.

This can be an arts district for the 21st Century-

Because definitions of art and artist are changing.

We live in a new economy of ideas. The arts provide tangible value as a lab for innovation and creativity, where the arts are not just creators of commodities – but provide a value at the intersection of ideas, public life, social justice and community design.

And we need- INVESTMENT

The District’s Foundation needs to provide Financial and Marketing support:

  • Grants for collaborations, between two or more organizations
  • Funding to help organizations OWN their buildings; for facade updates and renovations; to expand current facilities; or build dynamic, interdisciplinary spaces.
  • I see a path illuminating the cultural assets of the area: perhaps thru lighting or a green belt. (Please no “banners”.)

To welcome people from around the state – we need parking. We need to preserve low-income housing so artists can continue to live on the hill. We need incentives for landlords who invest in cultural organizations…

Perhaps most importantly: We already have an arts district on Capitol Hill. The proposal for a formal district is a proposal to name what already exists, to ensure its future in the face of intensifying gentrification. Let’s not forget to invest in what is already here, and learn from our experiences.

Many attendees at the Launch of the Capitol Hill Arts District called for more “affordable spaces” for artists. Many were unaware that Velocity is one of the few places on the hill that offers inexpensive studio and theater spaces that anyone can rent 24 hours a day, 360 days a year. As Seth Garrison put it, “Velocity is one of the only places on the hill that independent artists can still ‘occupy’.” Like many artist-founded organizations on the hill, Velocity has also relied on cooperative thinking. The Capitol Hill Arts District needs to invest where artists are already thriving and making it work.

In the past year, a few new organizations have been incentivized to move to the Pine/Pike Corridor, in part by being offered very low rent. SIFF’s rental of the Egyptian Theater is less than $3000 a month, and the theaters of the soon to be opened 12th Ave Arts are paying much lower than market rate for their spanking new creative home. Meanwhile, organizations like Northwest Film Forum, who have been making it work on the hill for more than a decade, now have to compete with SIFF while paying much more per month for their spaces. Velocity may be in a similar boat. Recently, Amanda Manitach in CityArts Magazine wondered if this impulse towards the new and “glossy” might be “the beginning of gentrified art (for lack of a better term) on the Hill.” Naming the Capitol Hill Arts District is a step in the right direction. As we envision and shape the future, let’s not forget the people and organizations that made us fall in love with it in the first place.

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