CAP Report: Implementation Update

This summer the Office of Arts & Culture published its long-anticipated CAP Report: 30 Ideas for the Creation, Activation, and Preservation of Cultural Space. The report sourced its ideas from the cultural community, the development community, from electeds, from departmental staff, and from consultants.

In the short four months since its publication, the Arts Office, City Council, and the Mayor’s Office have already acted on four of its 30 recommendations, and continue to explore the remaining 26.

The first of the 30 to see the light of day is Idea #3: Brand Cultural Space. Piloted in Capitol Hill, Seattle’s first of three Arts & Cultural Districts, this Cultural Space Brand is a medallion that officially recognizes cultural spaces in these arts-rich neighborhoods. The Brand is conceived as part of a wayfinding system, and designed to highlight the presence of cultural space, to aim people towards the arts, and to center cultural issues in neighborhood planning. The medallions themselves were designed by Kristen Ramirez, artists and Art & Enhancements Project Manager at Seattle Department of Transportation following a year of public community input, and created by a small local company.


The second of the 30 ideas to be operationalized is Idea #23: Increase City Capital Funding for Cultural Spaces. For the past five years, the City has awarded small capital grants to cultural space projects through the Cultural Facilities Fund. While the total amount has varied year to year, the largest that fund has been in any year was $250,000. In 2018, we are proud to debut a newly reconceived and greatly expanded Cultural Facilities Fund with $1 million total assets to award. ARTS is in the process of running a Racial Equity Toolkit on the fund expansion, to ensure that the added resources equitably benefit communities of color, in recognition of the fact that these communities have been largely underinvested in the history of this country. That new fund will debut in early 2018.


We are also proud to have worked closely with the Seattle Office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD) to activate Idea #4: Create an FAR (floor-to-area-ratio) Exemption and Bonus for Cultural Space. Piloted in the newly designated Uptown Arts & Cultural District, this mechanism will create an incentive for developers (without increasing heights) to embed cultural uses into their new projects. For every cultural square foot created, developers will be able to build additional market-rate square feet, helping subsidize the cultural uses in the building. Floor-to-Area Ratio incentives have long been used to encourage uses such as affordable housing, and are being leveraged here to meet another civic priority.

Finally, to implement Idea #9, we partnered with the Code Review team at the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) to update Seattle’s Building Code. Art galleries in Seattle are designated as Assembly uses in the code, but their operations are far better aligned with other retail uses, officially called Mercantile uses. The difference, while technical and specialized, is that it is impossible to put an Assembly use into an older building without triggering a prohibitively complicated set of reviews for the whole structure. This change will make it possible to open an art gallery in an older building without, for example, re-wiring every space in the building, or re-insulating every wall (whether in the gallery or not). Most exciting about this particular change is Seattle’s opportunity, at the next biennial meeting, to pitch this to the International Building Code review panel, and potentially share this change internationally.


ARTS continues to work on implementing the remaining recommendations from the CAP Report. Have you got a favorite idea? Reach out to us at and let us know what you think we should be working on.

ARTS allocates $1.25M for cultural spaces through the Cultural Facilities Fund

Opening early 2018, expanded fund creates more opportunity for underserved organizations

The Seattle Office of Arts & Culture’s (ARTS) Cultural Facilities Fund has expanded from $250,000 to $1,250,000 to better support capital projects for arts and cultural organizations in the City. The fund increase is in direct response to the needs to preserve cultural space and support affordability in a rapidly growing city.

The Cultural Facilities Fund started in 2012 and is designed to support capital projects that improve Seattle’s arts spaces in significant and lasting ways. The fund’s goal is to help Seattle-based organizations build and improve their facilities in ways that will ultimately advance their missions and strengthen Seattle’s cultural scene by creating greater accessibility. In 2017 ARTS is undertaking a Racial Equity Toolkit for the Facilities Fund to ensure that the benefits it creates are shared equitably with communities of color, and that it helps vulnerable organizations fight growing displacement pressures.

“It’s vital for the City to invest in artists and cultural organizations of color to create an affordable and livable city,” says Randy Engstrom, director, Office of Arts & Culture. “A thriving city needs space where diverse artists and organizations can create and present their art.”

In addition to addressing the needs of the community through an increased facilities fund, ARTS’ Cultural Space program will host the annual Square Feet Seattle convening on October 16, 2017 at King Street Station to explore affordability and ownership models in the arts and cultural sector. Recommendations from the recently released “CAP Report: 30 Ideas for the Creation, Activation, and Preservation of Cultural Space,” will also be included. The CAP Report advances the city’s agenda of affordability and livability. The report seeks to define opportunities to increase cultural space, equitably support creative innovation, strengthen neighborhoods and preserve the culturally rich traditions of the city.

The Office of Arts & Culture’s Cultural Space program preserves, creates and activates Seattle’s cultural square footage. To achieve this goal ARTS works with artists and cultural organizations to strengthen their role in charting the future of their creative spaces; works with developers and builders to incorporate arts and culture into new projects; and works with property owners to incentivize the preservation and expansion of arts and culture uses.

Historic Georgetown Steam Plant powers graphic novel call for artists

In a truly innovative call for artists, the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture (ARTS), in partnership with Seattle City Light, is looking for an artist/artist team to create a fictionalized graphic novel about the historic Georgetown Steam Plant.

Built in 1906, the Georgetown Steam Plant advanced industrial architecture in its time through the early use of reinforced concrete employed on a massive scale. It was also forward thinking in its turbine generator design that greatly increased power generation capability across the nation, and in turn influenced modern power generators.

The artist/artist team will write and illustrate a compelling 200-page fictionalized graphic novel that incorporates aspects of the Georgetown Steam Plant’s history. This new historical graphic novel should be written and illustrated for all-age appropriateness, but with a teen and older reading audience in mind. The artist will maintain copyright to the work, and the City of Seattle will have licensing/distribution rights to distribute free of charge to area schools, libraries, museums, non-profits, and relevant professional organizations. The City of Seattle also will maintain licensing rights to electronically distribute the work free of charge through the Seattle Public Library, Seattle City Light and/or ARTS.

Don’t wait, now’s your chance to make history. Apply now, the deadline is August 15.

Want to know more?


This call is open to all professional writers/artists/illustrators residing in Washington, Oregon, Idaho or British Columbia. Artist teams are required to have one member that meets the residency requirement. Experienced and published graphic writers/artists/cartoonists encouraged to apply. Students are ineligible to apply.


The budget for this project is $85,000 all inclusive. This budget assumes approximately $20,000 in printing costs for 1,000 copies of the graphic novel, a $50,000 author/illustrator artistic fee, and $15,000 in support budget and project management fees. The amounts all are inclusive of Washington State sales tax. (For out-of-state artists, the tax will be deducted from the commission).The selected artist/artist team will work with the Project Manager to establish a budget outline and work plan and will adjust as needed.

Seattle Arts Commission letter to King County Council in favor of Access for All

Today, the Seattle Arts Commission (SAC), 16 citizen volunteers appointed by the mayor and City Council, supporting the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture released a letter to the King County Council in favor of placing Access for All on the August ballot. Commission members include artists, arts professionals and other citizens with diverse backgrounds and strong links to Seattle’s arts community.

The full letter is available here. Below is an excerpt.

The Seattle Arts Commission (SAC) promotes the cultural vitality of our region by supporting arts and culture through a lens of economic, geographic and racial equity. While our charge is limited to the City of Seattle, we are acutely aware of our role within the cultural fabric of our county and our responsibility to serve a much broader region. With that in mind, we strongly encourage you to consider placing Access for All on the August ballot for voter consideration in King County.  

Protecting the Values of Our Region 

We are faced with a challenging political climate in our nation. A stark cultural divide has called our values into question and inspired many of us to mobilize in efforts to defend the principles we hold dear. The field of arts and culture has not been immune from vulnerability and Access for All offers our region the opportunity to respond with a powerful statement of support.

Statement from the Office of Arts & Culture about proposed 2018 Federal Budget

Randy Engstrom, the Director of the Office of Arts & Culture, issued the following statement about the proposed 2018 Federal Budget.

The National Endowments for the Arts (NEA) has for 50 years supported cultural organizations, artists and communities nationwide. The 2018 proposed federal budget seeks to eliminate all funds for the NEA, National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. This action will have profound economic and social impacts in Seattle and throughout the country.

In In 2017 the Seattle community received $750,000 from the NEA, funding more than 23 organizations of all sizes, including The 5th Avenue Theatre, Arts and Visually Impaired Audiences, Northwest Film Forum, Earshot Jazz to Town Hall.

In addition, Seattle Public Schools received $100,000 per year for the last two years for our arts education initiative, The Creative Advantage, a partnership with the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture and the Seattle Foundation.

Our office envisions a city driven by creativity that provides the opportunity for everyone to engage in diverse arts and cultural experiences. The arts provide us with transformational experiences, opportunities to advance racial equity and social justice, and the means to better understand both ourselves and the world around us. We believe continued investment in federal arts funding reinforces the amazing work our arts and culture community produce in our city every day and we will continue to work locally, advancing our values along with the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting for another 50 years.

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