Arts & Cultural Districts
The city of Seattle's Arts & Cultural Districts program is dedicated to nurturing and protecting the presence of arts and culture in neighborhoods. These elements have been shown to increase walkability, vitality, regional focus and interest. The city's mission in creating these districts is to ensure that the organizations and individuals that give these unique neighborhoods their verve remain healthy and vibrant for future generations.
The creation of this program came from the Cultural Overlay District Advisory Committee's June 2009 (PDF) report and City Council Resolution 31155 (PDF). In partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts' Our Town program the Office of Arts & Culture created a suite of Creative Placemaking tools to be applied in newly-formed Arts and Cultural Districts. The program was codified in City Council Resolution 31555 (PDF) on November 17, 2014.
Cultural Space Liaison
The Historic Central Area Arts and Cultural District
In December 2015, the Central Area became Seattle's second official Arts & Cultural District. The Historic Central Area Arts & Cultural District is located in Seattle's historically African-American neighborhood; a geographic area that was originally redlined, relegating African American residency to this part of the City. At various points in time, the neighborhood had also been home for Danish, Japanese and Jewish residents.
The Arts District is organized around three foundational pillars:
- Preserving an African and African-American legacy in the Central Area
- Sustaining and strengthening the physical identity and sense of place for cultural relevancy
- Establishing continued support of artistic creation, economic vibrancy, livability, affordability, desirability, and artistic vitality
The Central Area is a center of Seattle's African-American heritage and history, and it is a neighborhood undergoing rapid change. The Arts District designation recognizes the cultural legacy and seeks to preserve its character, while stimulating a growing arts environment for black culture in the Central Area.
Primary Arts District Development Partners include:
Northwest African American Museum
Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute
Meredith Mathews YMCA
Black Heritage Society of Washington State
The Hidmo Cypher, LLC
Seattle Black Arts Alliance
Central District Forum for Arts & Ideas
Pratt Fine Arts Center
Cortona Café (co-owner)
Jubilee Community Church
Nu Black Arts West Theatre
In partnership with the following organizations:
Capitol Hill was the first district to be named as part of the Arts & Cultural Districts program, in November of 2014.
Capitol Hill's Pike / Pine neighborhood is the densest arts neighborhood in the State of Washington. Over the course of the past 35 years, a diverse group of arts and cultural organizations have been re-occupying a formerly light industrial area known as "auto row." The district is now home to over 40 arts and cultural organizations.
At the same time, the neighborhood is experiencing rapid change and gentrification. Existing arts organizations are under real threat of being displaced by rising rents and redevelopment. Capitol Hill is increasingly perceived as being in danger of losing its soul.
A cultural problem requires a cultural solution.
The Capitol Hill Arts District is a coalition of arts advocates galvanized to keep Capitol Hill a thriving art scene invested in the creation of daring work, independent artists, and emerging ideas. We promote cultural engagement; harness resources; and preserve, enhance, and create space for artists and the arts.
Arts & Culture districts are collaborations between arts and local community.
To become one:
- a lead community partner (a business improvement area (BIA), Chamber of Commerce, local nonprofit, or community group, for example) assembles a coalition of constituents
- The coalition presents the Cultural Districts program with a proposal for the creation of a new arts & culture district.
Discussions and evaluations would follow, including:
- a survey of existing arts & cultural resources in the community,
- conversations with the various partners,
- neighborhood outreach meetings,
- modeling how the Toolkit would be applied in a new district.
This process would culminate in a formal application to the Office of Arts & Culture and a review by the department's director.
For more information about becoming an Arts & Culture District, contact Matthew Richter at email@example.com.
The Office of Arts & Culture anticipates a one-district-per-year roll out, in order to test new programs and adequately support the neighborhood in their endeavors. The Arts & Cultural District relies on a "heat map" of activity, where a core of density is recognized, not necessarily a hard boundary line.
The Creative Placemaking Toolkit
The Creative Placemaking Toolkit is designed to support artists, artspaces and neighborhoods. Created in collaboration with other city departments, neighborhood and community partners, this suite of tools will support improved walkability, marketing, right-of-way improvements, wayfinding, cultural preservation, and foster an increased density of arts projects throughout Seattle. As we test and develop these tools, we expect them to evolve and change over time.
The toolkit includes programs, projects, and mechanisms to support the following:
District Identification: The program seeks a way to identify, market, and brand Arts and Culture Districts, and to improve the visual landscape in the right-of-way. The installation of sidewalk kiosks, street sign caps, custom crosswalk paintings, and pole banners will announce the district to the public.
Wayfinding: This program will assist in guiding the public from one artspace to another, or from one arts event to another, and will take the form of mapping and branding individual buildings and spaces as Cultural Space.
Busking & Plein Air Painting Support: The presence of street performers and open-air urban landscape painters reminds residents and visitors that a neighborhood is vibrant and arts-friendly.
Art Historic Markers: This program, in partnership with HistoryLink.org, would celebrate culturally important spots with historic and educational markers.
Pop-up Space Activations: In partnership with Storefronts Seattle, the district will activate vacant storefront spaces with artists' projects.
Parklets: Parklets, or miniscule parks created in single parking spots, will include public art components, and serve as arts public space in cultural neighborhoods.
B.A.S.E. Certification: The Build ArtSpacE (B.A.S.E.) Certification is analogous to LEED environmental certification, but designed to reward projects that include cultural space.
Cultural Preservation and Landmarking: Various mechanisms are being explored for the support of older buildings and the innovative small local companies and arts organizations they tend to house.
This list will evolve and grow over time. Please be in touch with the Cultural Space Liaison if you have questions or ideas about the Toolkit.