City, cultural leaders discuss preserving art space
Declining arts space is a problem throughout the nation, as theaters make way for condos and retailers. But Matthew Kwatinetz, as well as...
Seattle Times staff reporter
City Hall Meeting"Make Room for Art: Cultural Overlay Districts for Seattle?," 5-6:30 p.m. Wednesday. Bertha Knight Landes Room, Seattle City Hall, 600 Fourth Ave., Seattle; free, all ages, open to the public (www.seattle.gov/ council/agendasc/culture. htm).
Declining arts space is a problem throughout the nation, as theaters make way for condos and retailers. But Matthew Kwatinetz, as well as other artists and community leaders, will not give up on Capitol Hill.
"It's not too late," said Kwatinetz, Capitol Hill Arts Center producing artistic director.
"Capitol Hill is one of the most unique neighborhoods in the world. ... It had, at one point, the most art organizations and artists per capita in the country (according to a recent local study) ... But personally I've seen, since coming here, and doing my own survey, a rapid loss of art organizations."
After Odd Fellows Hall — an arts mainstay in Capitol Hill — was sold last year, community members packed a meeting in January at Capitol Hill Arts Center where Seattle City Councilmember Nick Licata took up the issue and has organized a city hall meeting about art space Wednesday night.
"When I was at the [January] meeting, I looked around and saw a tremendous amount of interest in how to preserve Seattle homegrown culture," said Licata. "I was thinking that as an elected official what tools I had at my disposal and the easiest and the quickest one, at least to make this issue a carrot to the other council members and the mayor, while holding something at City Hall."
The meeting will focus on solutions to preserve, create and maintain art space on Capitol Hill. One possibility is creating a cultural overlay district which would give incentives — such as tax breaks, zoning changes or low-interest loans — to encourage artistic activities.
The overarching problem, says co-organizer of the meeting Jim Kelly, executive director of 4Culture, is that this is the "oldest story in the arts. Artists move to a neighborhood nobody wants to be, like Pioneer Square or Capitol Hill, and then transform the neighborhood. This brings in people and money, who are attracted to the neighborhood for its galleries, theaters, and bars that cater to the artists and that lifestyle ... Then people move in, prices go up, and the people who defined that attractiveness have to find somewhere else to go."
The reality, said Odd Fellows tenant Hallie Kuperman, is that "noise and culture go hand in hand." But with a dedicated district, Capitol Hill can thrive and patrons will no longer have to travel around the city to find that arts scene, Kuperman said.
With the sale of Odd Fellows, Kuperman's rent for Century Ballroom, which she runs, may go up more than 200 percent, she said. And, according to Kuperman, only one other tenant — Beyond Running — will be staying. All the other arts organizations are finding new homes.
"We are really running out of time; it's time to see people take a stand and move forward," said Kwatinetz.
Marian Liu: 206-464-3825 or email@example.com
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