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Seattle seeking affordable space for artists

An art installation at INScape in Seattle’s Chinatown-International District.
Florangela Davila
An art installation at INScape in Seattle’s Chinatown-International District.

It’s been a long running problem – how to keep and create affordable spaces for artists to live, work and perform in.

That’s the focus of Cultural Space Seattle, a two-day event beginning Tuesday at Town Hall. The City of Seattle is asking a wide range of people to roll up their sleeves to look for ways to preserve Seattle’s vibrant arts scene.

Artists turfed out of Pioneer Square

Earlier this year, 100 artists had to leave Pioneer Squareto make way for the deep-bore tunnel which is replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct along Seattle's waterfront. And finding cheap space isn’t easy as rents keep rising. 

Vincent Kitch is Director of the Seattle Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs. He hopes this meeting of the minds will identify artists’ needs, address hurdles and outline a long-term vision for the city.

“We’re working on programs that would help bring artists back into the downtown. We’re expanding our partnerships and our work on the Storefronts program to really look at how we can use arts to help revitalize empty retails areas. So, there are a lot of challenges that we face.”

Ideas from all walks welcomed

A diverse group of people including artists, elected officials, business owners and real estate developers are expected to weigh in.

One local sculptor and art-space developer who has plans to make his voice heard is Sam Farrazaino. He helped transform the former INS building in Seattle’s Chinatown-International District into an art colony known asInscape.  He likes to say it’s not the Taj Mahal, but it’s an important prototype with partnerships between artists, businesses and government. 

“The more you can put this together, and the more communities you have, and the more they build on the grander scheme, the better the city becomes," he said. "And, the more lively and the more soul that the city has and that’s where I think Seattle is at. We’re on that tipping point. People are starting to recognize that if we work together as a community, as city, as individual artists, as developers and we put it all together, we can build amazing things.”

How do other cities house artists?

Panelists from Chicago; Vancouver, B.C., and Philadelphia will share ideas about strides made in those cities. The idea behind the meeting is to connect a variety of players and come up with a framework to ensure artists have affordable spaces where they can thrive and show off their work.