SoCoCulture Membership Meeting Notes
11/9/2023 – 9:30 AM-Noon
This meeting was hosted at Auburn’s newly-opened Postmark Center for the Arts at 20 Auburn Avenue in Auburn.
Allison Hyde, Arts Program Supervisor for the City of Auburn, welcomed SoCo members and we dove right into our topic, Communities Centering on Culture.
Three case studies:
City of Auburn – presenters Allison Hyde, Arts Program Supervisor for Auburn and Jim Kleinbeck, Theatre Operations Manager for Auburn
Allison told us that the venue we were meeting in, Postmark Center for the Arts, was built in 1937 to serve as Auburn’s Post Office. Later it became a King County health services center, and the interior space was divided up into small offices and exam rooms. The City of Auburn acquired the building several years ago with the idea of building a cultural district – the storied Auburn Ave Theatre stands right across the alley to the south, and the idea was to activate and beautify the alley, and connect these two cultural resources for the city.
But things went awry when the retail building on the other side of the theatre was destroyed in a fire. Jim, who takes care of the performing artists series, told SoCo members that demolition of that building resulted in irreparable damage to the Theatre’s south wall and the Theatre has been condemned, so currently Jim is programming Auburn’s performing arts season in other venues around the city, while the city comes up with a plan and funding for demo’ing the theatre and rebuilding. (We hope that the marquee will be saved!)
In the meantime, the Postmark is attracting cultural visitors downtown as a site for rotating art exhibits and classes, providing studio space for visiting artists, and even serving as a venue for performances aimed at smaller audiences. It has a gift shop to enhance the city’s retail core, and it can also be rented out for events (there is a catering space).
Other Auburn activities include a downtown sculpture walk, Art-Rageous hands-on art-making events led by local artists during summer festivals, etc., Auburn’s 24/7 storefront gallery on Main Street, and a poet laureate program. The visual arts programs include stipends for the artists, but the poet laureate program does not. However, that program does provide funding for publication of chapbooks and other poetry projects initiated by the poet laureate.
Burien Creative District – presenters Virginia Wright and Andrew McMasters, co-chairs of the BCD effort, and Annie McGrath, executive director of Seattle Southside Chamber of Commerce.
Burien is the first city in South King County to obtain state-designated Creative District status through the Washington State Arts Commission. While there has long been vibrant cultural activity within Burien, this designation provides a chance to spread the word outside of the city. Burien’s Creative District has an unusual configuration – it includes the downtown core, and then a strip along Des Moines Memorial Drive which features several wrapped utility boxes that illuminate the road’s unique history that connects with the culturally important Boulevard Park neighborhood at the northern end of the city.
The Creative District designation brings modest state funding (for freeway signage, which Annie McGrath calls a “game-changer) along with a set of “next steps” to build community awareness and buy-in. These include community meet-ups (one of which supports the South King County Game Makers Association) and art-making events at community festivals.
The Burien Creative District has a website that can be accessed in the four languages most commonly spoken in that City.
Renton Arts and Culture Master Plan – presenters Lesley Bain/Framework Cultural Placemaking and Mary Clymer, Renton Municipal Arts Commission
Lesley Bain’s training as an architect has led her to think deeply about places – when she contracted with the City of Renton to help guide their Arts & Culture Master Plan process, she helped to deploy an outreach campaign that included hanging 3000 “doorknocker” flyers on doorknobs in neighborhoods around the city, doing walking tours, and tabling at various summer concerts and farmers markets to ask what Renton residents loved about their city, how they’d define Renton’s culture, and if there were barriers to accessing or expressing culture. The goal was to get broad community buy-in to a vision for the arts and culture in Renton. The master plan should inform economic development, pedestrian place-making, and bolster awareness of Renton’s cultural resources and artists.
Lesley and Mary talked about Renton’s new Art Hub, located at 204 Logan Ave S, in the ground floor space (formerly a Renton Police precinct office) of the Renton Municipal Parking Garage. Renton High alum Tommy Segundo (CreNative Designz) who cites his “Indipino” heritage as inspiration for the art he creates on murals and T-shirts, has been selected to activate the space, which will include retail space for artists as well as room for workshops and exhibitions.
Nearby, the Black Lives Matter street mural on Lake Avenue S (just west of Renton High School) was created with significant community involvement in 2021, but more recently it has not seen the kind of site activation that it has the potential for.
Renton Downtown Partnership became a full-fledged Washington Main Street Community in 2023, which is a preservation-based economic development tool that bestows benefits including eligibility for additional resources and funding opportunities like the Main Street Tax Credit Incentive Program.
Next on the SoCo meeting agenda:
Jessie Wasson from Inspire WA spoke about the Doors Open legislation which will be taken up by the King County Council, probably in December. Learn more about this potential new revenue source (which would be funded through a countywide sales tax) at the link above. Because 4Culture funding historically has not reached South King County in a proportional manner, advocacy by County Councilmember Dave Upthegrove and others proposed a carve-out of about a third of the funding to be dedicated expressly to cultural organizations and projects in Districts 5, 7 and 9 – that’s the bulk of South King County. But cultural stakeholders in South King County would also have access to the more competitive remainder of the funding pie. There was a question from the audience about who would monitor this allocation of funding to make sure those carve-out funds would actually get to South King County groups – Christina DePaolo of 4Culture said 4Culture would keep track.
Then Don Skaggs, member of the SoCo Leadership Team, presented results from a survey recently sent to all SoCo members regarding SoCo’s transition to an all-volunteer organization next year. There was a response rate of about 30% – thank you for the input! Please review the attached results (see links below). Now the SoCo leadership team will get to work and formulate a plan for next year.
SoCo members in attendance: 4Culture, Arts Foundation Federal Way, Centerstage Theatre, City of Auburn, Auburn Symphony Orchestra, BAT Theatre, Burien Arts Commission, Burien Culture Hub, Federal Way Harmony Kings, Greater Kent Historical Society, Improv Mindset LLC, City of Kent, Northwest Associated Arts, Pacific Northwest Railroad Archive, Renton Municipal Arts Commission, Renton History Museum, SoCo Leadership Team, Soos Creek Botanical Garden
Guests in attendance: African American Writers Alliance, Burien Creative District, Framework Cultural Placemaking, Inspire Washington, Seattle Southside Chamber
Wishing you all a happy holiday season ahead!