Mayor Murray signs legislation creating Central Area Arts and Cultural District

Mayor Murray signed legislation today creating the Historic Central Area Arts and Cultural District, the second Seattle neighborhood to be named a designated Arts & Cultural District. The Central Area is a center of African-American heritage and history as well as a neighborhood undergoing rapid change. The Arts District designation recognizes the culturally rich neighborhood and seeks to preserve its character.

“With this designation, we recognize the importance of the Central Area and the contributions of African Americans to Seattle’s rich and diverse cultural traditions as we seek to both honor and shape the legacy of the neighborhood,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “We also seek to build a vibrant arts environment and opportunities for creative industries to thrive in the Central Area for years to come.”

“The idea of an arts and cultural district in the Central Area actually predates the recent efforts to establish these districts,” said Steve Sneed, Historic Central Area Arts and Cultural District co-chair. “We’ve talked about and dreamt about something like this for more than 20 years, and now we’ve been able to turn that into action.”

The Historic Central Area Arts and Cultural District designation is dedicated to:

  • Preserving an African and African-American legacy in the Central Area.
  • Sustaining and strengthening the physical identity and sense of place for Black cultural relevancy.
  • Establishing continued support of artistic creation, economic vibrancy, livability, affordability, desirability and artistic vitality.

“The heritage of African-Americans in the Central Area has served this city in so many ways and now we have an opportunity to bring new life and meaning to a sacred past, and to be a force that helps to shape the future,” said Stephanie Johnson-Toliver of the Black Heritage Society of Washington. “The arts offers unlimited opportunity to stand firm in the present while giving honor to the past, and creating new paths to the future.”

The arts district designation creates access to the Creative Placemaking Toolkit, a suite of tools designed to preserve, strengthen, and expand arts and cultural places. The district will have access to $50,000 to be used towards the toolkit’s programs: signs to identify neighborhood borders and provide directions to significant places and landmarks; music and art in public places; pop-up activation; and parklets. The toolkit was designed by the Seattle Office Arts and Culture to support artists, art spaces, and neighborhoods in maintaining and investing in their cultural assets.

Central Area

The Central Area is Seattle’s historically African-American neighborhood and in a rapidly changing environment remains the nucleus for black art, business and culture. The Central Area has been home to some of the world’s most respected artists, including Jimi Hendrix, Quincy Jones, Theaster Gates, James Washington, Vitamin D, Ernestine Anderson, Ray Charles, Art Chantry and numerous others.

The Arts District is home to many arts and cultural organizations including:


Ariel Productions

Black Dot

The Black Heritage Society of Washington State

Brownbox Theater

Central Cinema

The Central District Forum for Arts and Ideas

Cortona Café

Coyote Central

Hidmo Cypher

Hollow Earth Radio

The James and Janie Washington Foundation

Jimi Hendrix Park Foundation

Lake Chad Café

Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute

New Urban Unlimited

Northwest African American Museum

Pipsqueak Gallery

Pratt Fine Arts

RBG the CD

The Seattle Black Arts Alliance


Arts & Cultural Districts

The creation of the Arts & Cultural District program stems from the recommendations of the Cultural Overlay District Advisory Committee’s June 2009 report, which was accepted and endorsed by Seattle City Council with Resolution 31155 in August 2009. City Council found that a district plan benefits the city because arts and cultural activities serve as a major economic engine for Seattle, and provide an invaluable quality of life that other activities cannot duplicate. The program launched in November of 2014 with the adoption of City Council Resolution 31555 and the creation of the Capitol Hill Arts District.