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.

Current Districts

Want to become an Arts & Culture District?

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 matthew.richter@seattle.gov.

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

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 Art Space Equitably (BASE) 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.