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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Art Space and Race: Keeping Eyes on the Prize

Posted by on Tue, Oct 22, 2013 at 11:25 AM

There's a good discussion going on in the comments section of the story I wrote in this week's paper, about why affordable artist housing in Seattle is so disproportionately white. Some commenters say I didn't answer the question, but the fact is that there isn't a clear answer, and smart people in the story propose several ideas, including everything from the cliquishness that redounds from a history defined by racism to non-Western artists not considering themselves eligible for projects they probably think are open only to oil painters.

Most importantly, one solution is for all types of people to get down to the new building under construction next to the Mount Baker Light rail station to apply on intake day in 2014. The date hasn't been set yet, but:

Artspace is against homogeneity in more than skin tone, but skin tone is related to cultural diversity, Vandenbrink elaborated. "If you are interested in Somali music or Eritrean dance forms, yes, you are an artist in our eyes," she said. "That's what's important: in our eyes. Even the whole white artist community thinks, 'Oh, artist housing, that means it's for painters.' This is for all creative people and cultural practitioners. Music and dance and performance and arts and crafts. We include curators and stage managers. We err on the side of inclusion, not exclusion."

Spread the word. E-mail Morton at to receive notification of applications, workshops for help applying, and advance notice for when it's time to camp out.

People have also asked me why Artspace makes people camp out to be considered. Vandenbrink explained it to me but I didn't have room to include the answer in the story. It's a policy partly developed from the Tashiro-Kaplan building in Pioneer Square, where the building was specifically built to help artists who were losing spaces stay in that neighborhood—to actually stop the gentrification process, where artists move in, then end up getting pushed out. Another reason? So that some artist from Arizona can't somehow get priority over an artist from Seattle, Vandenbrink said.

A cool unexpected side effect of people camping out together to apply for a building is that these are people who will likely end up living together. They start forming connections right then. At a new Artspace buidling in Santa Cruz, they're talking about making it an annual tradition.

Bottom line: Stay tuned. E-mail Morton to get on the list so you'll receive notifications of all upcoming dates. And Forward. This. Post.


Comments (10) RSS

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Artists are always the vanguards of gentrification...fully realized when 5 years later the Whole Foods is built. If you don't want gentrification (not a bad thing IMHO), then definitely don't invite the artists in. Plus, the gentrification ship has already sailed in that neighborhood.
Posted by shotsix on October 22, 2013 at 11:37 AM · Report this
Max Solomon 2
Artists, the Shock Troops of the Bourgeousie. I know, I was one once.

Camping out for consideration is still Bush League. Ask for a current address, and don't give equal consideration to out-of-towners. Problem solved.
Posted by Max Solomon on October 22, 2013 at 11:44 AM · Report this
A creative class, hipster-ish node directly adjacent to a super neat-o light rail station is going to be a gentrification super accelerator.
Posted by shotsix on October 22, 2013 at 11:52 AM · Report this
Supreme Ruler Of The Universe 4

Of course there are only so many artists and gentifiers in the world.

When they leave, the decay in the previous gentrified place begins.
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe on October 22, 2013 at 2:14 PM · Report this
I'll believe gentrification when we start seeing the alternative music clubs in Mount Baker/Columbia City, just as they happen not just in Ballard, but in the ghetto now gentrified sections of Brooklyn, NY, e.g., Bushwick, Williamsburg.
Posted by neo-realist on October 22, 2013 at 2:22 PM · Report this
Those excuses for camping out are ridiculous.

These are income-qualified apartments. The applicants have income/jobs. Some applicants can take a day off or aren't scheduled to work so they get to camp out. Some have to decide whether or not to ask for a day off in order to camp out. What happens when their boss says no? They quit their job so that they might have a chance at affordable housing? Unlikely. More likely they keep paying 40-50%+ of their income toward unaffordable housing until another unit opens up. But wait, Artspace uses waiting lists, so there's never another open unit available, without first waiting in line for some or several months.

And how is an artist in Arizona going to know about this project anyway? The Internet, I suppose... but really? How's the out of state traffic to your website? If you want to prioritize local residents, you could advertise with only local reach. Maybe advertise in the Stranger or a neighborhood blog or some other arts-heavy media. The issue in the article is about a failure to outreach to minorities in a minority-heavy locale. It's presented as a problem of outreach to minorities-- but could it also, or predominantly, be a problem of outreaching hyper-locally?

But even if an artist in Arizona did want to apply, what's the problem with that? It's not a long-term solution to turn away people that want to be part of our city. A real solution would be to accommodate growth with more housing levy funds, allowing more density, and investing in transportation options to link more parts of the city and region with its job centers. To turn people away, to limit growth, to only take care of our own is an attitude for NIMBY-sympathetic homeowners and John Fox... and he is without any doubt the most counter-productive affordable housing advocate in the region, if not the state.

We can do better, can't we?
Posted by Colin Miller on October 22, 2013 at 2:32 PM · Report this
The Royal Room has been in Columbia City for two years now. Whats more "alternative" than dropping out from playing the hippest clubs in NYC, with people like John Zorn, and moving the Rainier Valley?

Old news, dude.
Posted by CATSPAW666 on October 22, 2013 at 5:02 PM · Report this
Certain "people of color" are vastly over represented in subsidized housing. The very phrase "people of color" is dishonest as though all "nonwhites" were one big homogenous family. If Jen and co are going to complain when whites are over represented in benefits on occasion I expect her to complain when it is the other way too. I have lived on numerous occasions next to/across the street from SHA buildings in predominantly white neighborhoods that had close to zero white people living there and are almost 100% black. Asians are also screwed out of their fair share of subsidized housing because they have a low rate of single motherhood, large families, high school dropouts, and have a high rate of practicing family planning. Asians make up about 16% of the Seattle population- over twice that of blacks. Yet blacks are provided much more social services and pandering. An article in the Seattle Times today illustrates yet another example of the city pandering to the AME church and giving them property and services no other religious or ethnic based organization gets. Is Jen going to complain about this too? It is racism when whites are overrepresented in services on occasion but it is racism to notice and object to blacks overrepresented in services as the norm.
Posted by hayden c on October 22, 2013 at 5:53 PM · Report this
@7, When John Zorn isn't simply living in the Valley, but when the likes of Naked City, Charles Gayle, or Melt Bannana are playing the Royal Room, as opposed to some of the occasional usual suspects like the Moonspinners?, then lets talk alternative music space.
Posted by neo-realist on October 22, 2013 at 6:34 PM · Report this
Zorn doesnt live there, Wayne Horvitz does. And has for something like ten years.
Aint no pleasing some people.

Horvitz pleases me every time I listen to his music.

Point remains, Gentrification of Columbia City has been going on for 20 years.
Posted by CATSPAW666 on October 23, 2013 at 8:37 AM · Report this

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