What makes a place iconic? We asked a brewery-owner, an activist and a poet
Métier Brewing CEO Rodney Hines has created new spaces that become community hubs. Vanishing Seattle founder Cynthia Brothers documents displaced and disappearing places through social media and short films. And poet Claudia Castro Luna has mapped poetry across Seattle and Washington state, contemplating the meaning of "place."
On Monday evening at Folio in Pike Place Market, these three community leaders joined KNKX News Director Florangela Davila for an hour long discussion about what makes a place iconic and the places that shape Seattle's culture.
Listen to the full conversation in the video above, read on for highlights.
Iconic — Something representative, influential, recognizable. Something worthy of veneration.
On why Pike Place Market is iconic.
Hines: "There's still discovery that happens in this place. And I think what makes it iconic, for me is the spirit of discovery in it...But part of the discovery that I love telling visitors about is what you don't see at the market and the fact that there's a food bank here, there's senior housing here. There's a neighborhood health clinic here. And so and it's a PDA, and it's serving a purpose for those who need these things here. But it's also serving for surprise and joy for tourists and all of us who live here."
Brothers: "We talk about being iconic in terms of the symbolic sense. You might see it on a postcard or it's, you know, in the background and movies...it definitely has that hands down. But if you also think about something that's iconic in terms of the impact that it has on people's lives in the meaning that it holds, I think it's also iconic in that sense.
"There's just something really ineffable and that has so much energy and soul to it, you can tell that this place has been stewarded with intention and diversity. And it's not just a caricature of Seattle."
Castro Luna: "Often people portray the market as being outside facing, as a place for tourists. But I think that's not really true. I mean, it couldn't be sustained if us locals weren't coming here, and engaging with the place.
"And so for my family, for instance, this is the place where we do all of our Christmas shopping for food. So we buy the vegetables, and the fish and the meats, and we couldn't think of doing it anywhere else. We come here as a family. Because it holds a special place, and it just feels different. And it is welcoming. I mean, that's the thing about the market. I think that it's so open, and welcome."
On our relationships with places.
Castro Luna: "Place is a set of relationships, right? It's a set of relationships to each other as humans, but also between us humans in the natural world, and between the natural world itself. And so its terrain, and all of the relationships that thrive upon it, that is for me what place is. We discover places by living in it, by being in it. And by forging memories...It's one layer that defines what the market is for them. And we have many layers that we put down when we interact with place. And each person interacts differently."
Brothers: "I think a lot of what was driving my kind of obsessive documentation is this fear that like, what if it doesn't get recorded? Like I know, it's important to people, because people tell me that it is. And so I think I just wanted it [Vanishing Seattle] to be a platform for people to have a place to mourn and to grieve, but also to celebrate, and find connections to each other through these places.
"I feel like there's the amalgamation of all these places I think reflects back to us something about what the city is and, you know, who we are. No matter what point in time we arrived in Seattle, I think everybody needs spaces where they can find those points of connection."
On who gets to decide whether a place matters or not.
Brothers: "For me, personally, it's not necessarily the aesthetics of the building. But what happens within it is like, where the real beauty lies.
"If you're looking at, especially at traditionally marginalized communities, communities of color, the places where we celebrate and gather are not going to be like the soaring architectural beauties...so I think that, when you look at Historic Preservation, if you're just looking at the architectural piece, it's already going to be inherently unjust. And so for me, I think the cultural and the social component is really the most important thing."
On the emotion that comes with seeing things go away.
Hines: "I hadn't thought about the original Carnegie library that was here, downtown until today, and it made me question, how did I forget about it? And did I forget about it, because we have this glorious, beautiful library, state of the art that has replaced it? Do we move on with our memories and those emotional connections that are tied to that?"
Castro Luna: "The rapidity and the speed of change in Seattle leaves no time for mourning what was there. There isn't even a time to meet up with a friend and say, 'oh my god, did you notice this?' There isn't time for those conversations, you know, and that just leaves, like, this emptiness, this longing when you drive by."
On building something new and building trust with a community.
Hines: "Sometimes I feel like an outsider, when old school folks, Black folks come into our [Central District] space who've grown up and moved away from Seattle, but when they come in, and they show love for our space, but I also feel like I've got a responsibility for maintaining a space that those people feel welcomed coming back to. And in that moment, though I've been here for nearly 30 years, I still feel like this isn't originally my community. So I still need to earn that respect."
On the power of imagining new spaces.
Castro Luna: "I would say that imaginary spaces are as important as the real ones. And they inform each other. And I think more of it in the sense that when we talk about the market, and what makes it iconic, and what is so special, and why we fall in love with it. Why can't this happen again, at this scale elsewhere, right? If we can't feed our imaginations to construct spaces where we belong, spaces of belonging. That's the beginning toward creating the real spaces."
Brothers: "I think it is very powerful when people are just like, we refuse to accept what you tell us as possible, because...we know what we need and how to bring that into reality. And so that's something that really gives me hope about Seattle is that I see that happening and space being reclaimed and created."
More about the panelists
Rodney Hines worked on philanthropic and social impacts initiatives at Microsoft and Starbucks before co-founding Métier Brewing with Todd Herriott. One of Washington state's few Black-owned breweries, Métier Brewing has locations in Woodinville and the Central District. The company recently expanded with Steelheads Alley, a brewpub opened across the street from the stadiums in partnership with the Seattle Mariners that honors Seattle's Negro League team.
Claudia Castro Luna is a poet, author and teacher. She was Seattle's inaugural civic poet and served as Washington state's poet laureate. In addition to her published works, two of her projects with an emphasis on place are Washington Poetic Routes, a digital poetry-mapping project, and the Seattle Poetic Grid, an interactive map of poems collected during her residency.
Cynthia Brothers began Vanishing Seattle in 2016, sharing photos and stories about buildings, business and places being closed or displaced by the region's rapid growth. The project has gained more than 100,000 followers, led to an award-winning short documentary series and been recognized for its contributions to historic and community preservation.
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