ARTS Launches newest Arts & Cultural District

On Saturday, August 18, before Cinema Under the Stars in Columbia Park, Deputy Mayor Ranganathan, Randy Engstrom and representatives from Capitol Hill, the Central District, and Uptown welcomed Seattle’s newest arts and cultural district, the Columbia Hillman Arts & Cultural District.

Kathy Fowells, director at SEEDArts spoke eloquently about becoming the newest arts and cultural district and we wanted to share her words with everyone.

I would like to acknowledge that we are on indigenous land, the traditional territories of the Coast Salish people. I’d also like to thank all the artists, and people representing the arts and cultural spaces in Columbia and Hillman Cities for working together throughout the application process. We’ve been working towards this designation for 2 years. You all should know that there were nearly 100 people involved in this process — it was truly grassroots organizing at its finest.  

As you may know, the 98118-zip code has become one of the most diverse regions in the nation. People from 40 ethnic groups call our neighborhoods home and speak 59 different languages. We are lucky to be able to experience these diverse cultures through their arts, performances, and cuisines right in our own backyard.  

Columbia and Hillman Cities have one of the densest populations of artists and musicians in our state. Our Creative Economy is strong and thriving. 10 years ago, the Washington State Arts Commission and the Western States Arts Federation worked together to form a tool called the Creative Vitality Index which tracks the impact of the creative economy in the state. The study tracks 36 occupational categories – including artists and musicians, photographers and filmmakers, dancers and authors. It also tracks revenue for arts organizations, businesses, and other data related to arts participation. The national Creative Vitality Index score is 1. The score for Washington State is .98 — just below the national average. Can you guess what our score is? It’s a whopping 1.83 – that’s nearly double the state score! According to their report, nearly 3,000 residents in SE Seattle hold creative jobs. In 2014, our local creative industries put $134 million dollars into the economy, and our cultural nonprofits contributed another $45 million. And that’s just in SE Seattle. 

Last weekend, I went to the San Jose Jazz Festival to see my brother, who is a jazz drummer in NYC, perform. As I was looking at the festival schedule, I was excited to see a Seattle band, the Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio, on the schedule. Their drummer is none other than our very own Dave McGraw, the owner of Columbia City Acupuncture. It was pretty cool to be in California moving to beats from SE Seattle. It struck me that the arts of our neighborhood are so strong that even our local acupuncturist is a performing artist, and he’s representing us on stages all over the world. 

So why did we seek to become an arts and cultural district and what do we hope to accomplish? 

Our neighborhoods have embodied the creative spirit since they were founded. We want to ensure that arts continue to be strong presence in our community, and that our artists and arts spaces are protected. We know that rapid development is coming to the south end, and that we have a golden window of opportunity to guide this growth so that it is inclusive and supportive of our rich and diverse creative community.  

Our mission for the district is to celebrate and enhance the authentic and culturally diverse soul of Columbia City and Hillman City. 

We envision an inclusive, expansive and thriving creative community. What will this look like?

We would like to see

  • A community where it’s possible for artists to make a living being an artist;
  • Affordable spaces for artists to live and work;
  • And affordable commercial spaces for them to do business.

 

 

We would like to see

  • Our existing cultural spaces preserved and protected; and
  • Dedicated space for arts and culture in all new development projects

And we would like to see

 

 

  • More arts programs for youth;
  • Arts programs and projects with racial and social equity as a primary driver;
  • And places for people from all of our diverse communities to enjoy their cultural traditions and share their stories through the arts. 

Each and every one of you has a role to play in supporting our Arts and Culture district. For many of you it means supporting the arts by attending events and exposing your kids to a wide range of arts experiences.  

This Arts and Culture district designation means that Columbia and Hillman Cities will continue to be a Creative Hub. A place where the creative economy can thrive, where artists are supported, and where neighbors have access to a variety of arts experiences. We understand that the arts are key to both community and economic development — and that a flourishing creative community makes our neighborhoods more livable, fun and beautiful. We are blessed with an incredibly rich diversity of peoples and cultures and art forms that make up the creative soul of the south end.