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

Uptown Arts and Cultural District

The Uptown Arts and Cultural District

In 2017, Uptown became Seattle's third official Arts & Cultural District. Since the 1962 World's Fair, Uptown has been a hub of Seattle arts and culture, drawing audiences and performers locally, national and internationally. Uptown's rich concentration of diverse arts and cultural spaces and activities includes independent artists, internationally renowned classical arts, innovative theater and visual arts, ethnic festivals from around the world, and major music concerts. Uptown is a stage to celebrate the international diversity that is represented throughout Puget Sound. People come to the neighborhood to share the richness of music, dance, art and food found around the world.  

The Uptown Arts and Cultural District advocates for Uptown and is dedicated to the neighborhood's continuing evolution as a vibrant and inclusive cultural center. The group has committed itself to:

  • integration across the geography of Uptown from Seattle Center to the Heart of Uptown and beyond;
  • a commitment to racial and social equity;
  • activation of cross-cultural and interdisciplinary collaboration;
  • development and measurement of our creative economy.  

Supporting organizations and individuals include:  

Academy of Interactive Entertainment (AIE)
AEG Live
Art Not Terminal
Art-In-A-Box
ArtsED Washington
ArtsFund
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Visitor Center
Blaine Center - Compass Housing Alliance
Book-It Repertory Theatre
Canlis Glass
Chihuly Garden and Glass
Institute for New Connotative Action (INCA)
G. Gibson Gallery
KCTS 9
KEXP
KING FM 98.1
MarQueen Hotel's Tin Lizzie Lounge
McCaw Hall
Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP)
Music4Life
Northwest Folklife
Northwest Print Center & Incubators
On the Boards
One Degree Events
One Reel
Pacific Northwest Ballet
Pacific Science Center
Pottery Northwest
Prima Vera Arts Center
Queen Anne Historical Society
Seattle Center
Seattle Children's Museum
Seattle Children's Theater
Seattle Opera
Seattle Repertory Theatre
Seattle Shakespeare Company
Seattle Storm (WBCOS)
SIFF Film Center
SIFF Cinema Uptown
Space Needle
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Teen Tix
Ten Mercer
The Vera Project
Theatre Puget Sound
Uptown Alliance

Columbia Hillman Arts & Cultural District

Columbia Hillman Arts & Cultural District

In 2018 Columbia City and Hillman City became Seattle's fourth Arts & Cultural District. Southeast Seattle is a mosaic of communities and is among the most ethnically diverse region in the state. The designation of Columbia Hillman Arts & Cultural District recognizes and supports the creative contributions from Southeast Seattle.

The mission of the Columbia Hillman Arts & Cultural District is to celebrate and enhance the authentic and culturally diverse soul of the Columbia City and Hillman City neighborhoods through identification with, and the advancement of, arts and culture. They want to celebrate the historic contributions the arts have played in these communities, preserve and promote their current art spaces, and most importantly, proactively guide their future by ensuring that new art spaces are included in future developments. They recognize that designation can bring opportunity to artists and cultural spaces, but also to the myriad of cultures that allow Southeast Seattle to be such a great producer of arts and cultural experiences; this diversity must be maintained. In furtherance of this mission, the Columbia Hillman Arts & Cultural District stakeholders are committed to:

  • Activation of the Southeast Seattle creative economy;
  • Retention and preservation of existing cultural spaces;
  • Inclusion of new arts and cultural spaces in future development;
  • Ensuring the availability of affordable commercial space for arts/cultural businesses and affordable live/work space for artists;
  • Arts programs and projects with racial and social equity as a primary driver;
  • Sustain and protect the cultural landscape that makes our neighborhoods unique;
  • Development of increased youth engagement in the arts.  

Members of the Columbia Hillman Arts & Cultural District include:
Tarik Abdullah, Chef, Black & Tan Hall
Haimi Ayele, Community Arts Activist
Jennifer Bennet, Artist, Teacher, Black & Tan Hall
Debra Bouchegnies, dbCreative Services Group, LLC
Sally Brucker, Igimo Arts Station
Heather Curran, Theater artist, Community Activist
Guy Davis, Musician, Columbia City Business Association
Chris Digangi, Media Artist
Julie Dillon, Community Arts Activist
Lori Duckstein, Artist
Betsy Fetherston, Columbia City Gallery
Kathy Fowells, SEEDArts
Francisca Garcia, Rainier Arts Center
Erik Hanson, Jazz Night School
Kate Harkins, Artist
Beau Hebert, Lotties Lounge
John Helmiere, The Collaboratory
Rodney Herold, Black & Tan Hall
James Hong, Vietnamese Friendship Association
Ben Hunter, Community Arts Create, Collaboratory, Black & Tan Hall, Musician
Lara Lavi, Columbia City Theater
Frank Martinez, SouthEast Effective Development
Tia Mathies, Royal Room
David McRae, Ark Lodge Cinema
Rob Mohn, Columbia City Business Improvement Area
Connie Ostrowski, The Makery
Ethan Pollak, Illustrator
Joan Robbins, Artist
Joe Seamons, Musician, Black & Tan Hall
Talia Silveri Wright, Community Arts Activist
Mia Stephenson, SEEDArts Studios
Matthew Stubbs, Hillman City Business Association
Barbara Earl Thomas, Artist
Mary Melinda Wellsandt, Artist

Historic Central Area Arts and Cultural District

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.

Logo for Historic Central Area Arts District

Primary Arts District Development Partners include:

Northwest African American Museum
Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute
Meredith Mathews YMCA
Black Heritage Society of Washington State
Coyote Central
The Hidmo Cypher, LLC
Brownbox Theatre
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:

Africatown
Ariel Productions
The James and Janie Washington Foundation
RBG the CD, and an evolving list of residents, artists, and organizations.

Capitol Hill Arts District

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.

Logo for Capitol Hill Arts District

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 and Cultural Organizations in the Capitol Hill Arts District

Map of the Capitol Hill Arts District

12th Avenue Arts
Annex Theatre
Artist Trust
Blick Art Materials
Broadway Performance Hall
Capitol Hill Block Party
Cassandria Blackmore Studio
Century Ballroom
Chop Suey
ContactCreate Crybaby Studios
Eclectic Theater
The Egyptian Theater
Elliott Bay Book Company
The Erickson Theater
Everyday Music
Frame Central
High Voltage Music Store
Hugo House 
Kinsey Gallery
KXSU SeattleLee Center for the Arts / Hedreen Gallery
Longhouse Media
Ltd. Art Gallery
M Rosetta Hunter Art Gallery
Neumos
New Century Theater Company
Northwest Film Forum
The Northwest School
Photo Center Northwest
Pound Arts
The Project Room
Rare Medium
Seattle Academy of Arts and Sciences
Strawberry Theater WorkshopStudio Current
Three Dollar Bill Cinema
True Love Art Gallery
Vachon Gallery
Velocity Dance Center
Vermillion Art Gallery
Washington Ensemble Theater


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 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.