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Monday, November 10, 2008

Consolidated Works: the Teardown

posted by on November 10 at 13:50 PM

ConWorks—the “multi-disciplinary contemporary arts center” founded in 1997 by Matt Richter, home of much good art [Greg Lundgren, SuttonBeresCuller, theaterrun, 14/48, much more], some strong controversy after the board dismissed Richter, hired a slick-talking huckster to replace him, and soon ran the place into the ground—is finally being torn down.

(You can revisit those days—Remember them? Remember that replacement, the unctuous Corey Pearlstein? And the inscrutable board president Robb Kreig?—in a series of Theater News columns.)

Photos courtesy of Matthew Richter.




Richter has been hanging out at the demolition site and writes: “This morning I found, literally in a pile of rubble, this big Plexiglas sign that used to hang in the lobby welcoming people to ConWorks. If ConWorks gets a eulogy, this should be it.”


Welcome to Consolidated Works. If you haven’t been here before, here’s the idea in a nutshell:

ConWorks is arranged architecturally like a wheel, with a hub and spokes. The lobby is the hub of this wheel, and the rooms laid out around it are the spokes. These rooms include:

* a 150-seat mainstage theater
* a 50-seat movie theater
* a 4,500 square foot gallery
* a music stage
* an arts resource center
* a full bar and lounge
* three artist studios
* offices for six fellow nonprofits

If you haven’t seen the whole facility yet, please feel free to ask at the box office about taking a tour of the space. We love showing it off.

Our programming follows the same hub-and-spoke structure as our architecture, The hub, in this case, is theme, and each eight-week “Consolidation Series” examines a different theme—Artificial Life (Fall 1999), or Imagined Landscapes (Winter 2000), or Suspension (Winter 2004), for example. The spokes, in this analogy, are the various arts disciplines themselves.

Each Consolidation Series includes a film series, a music series, a visual arts exhibit, a mainstage production in our theater, and a series of lectures, all examining a common theme. The theme is the glue that ties the total ConWorks experience together. It provides our curators in each arts discipline with a common starting point and a common goal, and it offers you, the audience, a preliminary answer to the most common question heard around contemporary art — “What was that about?”

This resource center is a good place to start exploring the current theme. Here you’ll find statements by the curators and the executive director, displays tying into the theme and programming, and see and hear some of the upcoming programming in the series.

Consolidated Works is a nonprofit organization, supported by many individuals like yourself, in addition to private foundations, corporations, and municipal granting agencies. Please join us as a supporter by becoming a member or a donor today.

Help build Seattle the contemporary arts center it deserves.

Richter says he’s been hanging out at the site, taking photos, and made friends with the demolition guys. They let him wander around and take photos (and took a few photos of dramatic parts falling when he wasn’t there). “The demolition guys were incredibly curious about what had happened there,” Richter says. “Far more curious than the board of directors ever was.”

He also notes that the demo company takes the old lumber, mills it clean in Tacoma, and resells it as salvage lumber. “So if anyone wants furniture made from the old Consolidated Works,” Richter says, “point them to”


Goodbye all over again, ConWorks.


Steven Vroom sent along some links to other digital panoramas at ConWorks from back when:

RSS icon Comments


Replaced by a "slick-talking huckster"? Somehow I missed that part of the equation. Isn't he now the ED of Shunpike?

Nice photos. The death of ConWorks is certainly one of the saddest arts losses in the city in the time I've been here.

Posted by genevieve | November 10, 2008 1:57 PM

Yeah, what exactly happened B? I reread your articles any they don't really have any back story. Why was Matt shitcanned? What happened?

Posted by Scott Dow | November 10, 2008 2:04 PM

I performed the meanest breakup of my life right outside ConWorks there. Bittersweet for me to see the building erased.

Posted by tomasyalba | November 10, 2008 2:04 PM

The huckster I was referring to was Corey Pearlstein.

Posted by Brendan Kiley | November 10, 2008 2:05 PM

@ 2.

A paragraph from the first linked story:

"For those just tuning in: Consolidated Works is—was?—a multidisciplinary arts center founded and run by Richter alongside fine folks such as visual-art curator Meg Shiffler (who left to attend Bard) and managing director Sarah Wilke (who left to become managing director of On the Boards). In February 2005, the board unanimously voted to fire Richter, giving him an ignominious 10 minutes to clean out his desk and leave the building. Board president Robb Krieg refused to explain the board's rationale and the reasons are still the subject of speculation. Current president Allena Gabosch—also board president of 'sex-positive community center' the Wet Spot—replaced Krieg in April."

Nobody will ever know exactly what went down. Krieg fired Richter and wouldn't explain why (at least publicly). Richter claimed not to know why, either. It was an ugly moment.

Posted by Brendan Kiley | November 10, 2008 2:09 PM

If I remember right, ConWorks had these great sponsor signs - like those in an established theater or museum, that state "the so-and-so theatre made possible by the generous donation of Blank" except they were on the bathroom stalls, sinks, urinals, etc. If I'd donated a toilet there, I'd want my sign back.

Posted by Lucky | November 10, 2008 2:10 PM

Those theater seats were originally from my high school. I hope that the metal scrap guys are able to salvage them.

Posted by class of "85 | November 10, 2008 2:10 PM

*Sigh!* It was bound to happen sooner or later, but still sad to see the place go. Nice that Matt was the one to give the place a proper send-off; it was after all, his "baby" from the very beginning - with a lot of mid-wives pitching in along the way.

I'm just amazed that it appears the place was literally abandoned, and nobody - presumably the ConWorks Board - even thought enough to try to strip-out some of the quite still useful fixtures & furnishings.

Ah well, at least Annex salvaged those ugly orange couches from the rest rooms, as well as the show blacks, so I'll always have those as reminders every time I see them.

Posted by COMTE | November 10, 2008 2:31 PM

@4 - I knew you meant Pearlstein, but he didn't come to CW until well after Richter was fired, right? I don't remember hearing anything about him, or really about CW at all after he came on board, until it closed, and Shunpike seems to be doing ok.

I don't know him or have any allegiance to him, but I figured he got kind of a bad deal too, coming in to an organization (from out of town) that had shot itself in the foot. *shrugs*

Posted by genevieve | November 10, 2008 2:31 PM

We never go to galleries/arthouses/whatever, but we've been to ConWorks 4-5 times. Last time was to see Negativland. \m/

Noplace else did nor does seem to quite compare with ConWorks in scope of some of the things that appeared there.

Posted by K | November 10, 2008 2:43 PM

Well, there goes one of the coolest spaces in Seattle. Past year I've been praying some renegade CEO would have a midlife crisis and bring it back from the dead, but. Guess not.

Posted by Garth | November 10, 2008 3:00 PM

@1 & 9 - Are you thinking of Andy Fife? He was the Ops Manager at ConWorks during Corey Pearlstein's brief tenure. Fife is now Shunpike's utterly non-huckster Executive Director.

Posted by lola | November 10, 2008 3:07 PM

I went down on Saturday and hung my arms on the chain link fence, stared into a room I made two pieces in (the "solo" show room) right next to the roll up door and shed a tear. Dont forget the others who helped bring the ship down...Such amazing memories in that building.....

Posted by MadDog | November 10, 2008 3:43 PM

It's hard for me to get worked up about this. Conworks was great. But it existed by the good graces of Vulcan, which transparently used it to help gentrify the neighborhood (and host fundraisers for Mayor Nickels). With SLU's redevelopment well underway, it can now be demolished. No big surprise, though, even if a little sad.

Posted by Trevor | November 10, 2008 4:51 PM

ConWorks was one of those rare, true community projects - great people from many disciplines came together and help build and run a vibrant space, featuring bold, original work, and unforgettable parties. And it all started because Matt Richter had an idea, and kept working to make it happen. Thanks Matt, and may your relentless spirit of 'doing' become contagious.

Posted by Scott Kennedy | November 11, 2008 4:54 AM

I saw Tarkovsky's "Stalker" there in a room with maybe six other people. The projector - both of them, actually - kept breaking down, and an already long film was made even longer. Some girl fell in love with me that night (so she likes to remind me) and it remains one of the best filmgoing experiences of my life.

Posted by Jeffrey Meyer | November 11, 2008 11:04 AM

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