Arts and Commercial District Revitalization: Only in Seattle Peer Network Gathering

On September 11, business district leaders from around Seattle gathered to talk art. Over 10 neighborhoods were represented in the audience as the Office of Arts and Culture’s Ruri Yampolsky kicked things off with a presentation focusing on the City’s Public Art program.

The program is designed to enhance the built environment, increase livability of the city, and create a sense of place and community.

The program does this through integrating art into the construction of a facility, designing art for a specific location, placing existing art throughout City facilities, providing short-term or temporary art or granting residency to an artist to develop art plans or artwork. A handful of City departments help fund this work. In addition, one percent of capital projects are eligible to be used for incorporating art. A useful tip for business districts: if there is a planned capital project in your community, lobby the capital department to consider the project a candidate for the one percent of art funding. Tools and resources were also shared to help think through the entire process of identifying, procuring, funding and installing art in your community.

Seattle Office of Arts and Culture Presentation

Beyond the Public Art program, how can organizations use art to enhance the vibrancy of the business district? Matt Richter helped explain cultural placemaking and a new toolkit for cultural districts that will be rolled out soon. Some examples of cultural placemaking are:

  • Right of way district identifiers
  • Wayfinding mechanisms
  • Busking
  • Art History Markers
  • Historic Preservation

Check out the presentation below for concrete examples. Overall, districts with rich cultural identities and a strong art presence are likely to be more attractive for businesses and residents.

Culural Placemaking Toolkit

The second presentation topic of the afternoon we requested by leaders in the August Peer Network Gathering. The Office of Economic Develompent’s Stephanie Gowing presented about the Business Retention and Expansion Program and touched on the benefits of partnership with business district organizations. The partnership with business district organizations will include a training and workshop to access all the services that are offered, as well as a toolkit to reference these services. This partnership provides an added benefit for business districts organizations to provide to their members. More information is coming this fall. If you are interested in participating and want more information, please contact Stephanie Gowing at

Business Retention and Expansion Program

Check out the meeting notes for additional information.

Subscribe to the Only in Seattle Calendar for the complete schedule of upcoming Peer Network Gatherings.

Interested in the attending? Register here