Pratt Fine Arts Center

Pratt Fine Arts Expands For The Next 40 years

After forty years of making art accessible to anyone and everyone in the Central District, The Pratt Fine Arts Center is expanding up and preparing for the future. Pratt, whose mission statement aims "to make art accessible to everyone" by "offering a place for spirited exchange, self-expression and personal transformation through creativity" plans to expand its current square footage by 75%. The new space will allow for offices, a new reception area, a community art gallery as well as space dedicated for drawing, painting, printmaking, letter pressing, and youth art programs. Additionally, plans include an "artfully landscaped" outdoor area (to be known as "Pratt Yard") that will sit adjacent to Pratt Park and the existing buildings. 

The expansion proposal includes a six-story mixed-use L-shaped building along Jackson and 19th Avenue by Daniels Real Estate.  The building would provide 160 new apartment homes.  There is no plan to participate in any program to provide affordable rental units, and all are planned to be “market rate”.  Some concerned community members have reached out to Pratt administration about this.

The City’s design review board has taken a first public look at the design proposal.  A second meeting has not yet been scheduled.  To see the design proposal see: http://web6.seattle.gov/dpd/edms/default.aspx?ref=3026605

Pratt Fine Arts Center (as with the adjacent Pratt Park), is named for local Civil Rights leader, Edwin T. Pratt, who, while championing the plan to desegregate Seattle Public Schools and serving as Executive Director of the Seattle Urban League, was assassinated in 1969. The Fine Arts Center serves as an enduring legacy of a man who dedicated his life to equal access to education and housing in Seattle. 

If you are interested in learning more, or taking a class at Pratt, check out their website for course listings: http://pratt.org/. The myriad of course offerings is incredible: From blacksmithing to wood turning to water colors--Pratt has it all. Check 'em out! 

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Historic African American Arts and Culture District Takes Off

HAACD

Neighbors at the SPCC January quarterly meeting heard an important message about Seattle’s newly officially-designated Historic African American Arts and Culture District.

Vivian Phillips, (who is co-chair of the HAACD, along with Steve Sneed) described the three main goals of the District:

  1. Preserving an African-American legacy;
  2. sustaining and strengthening the physical identity and sense of place for cultural relevancy; and
  3. establishing continued support of artistic creation, economic vibrancy, livability, affordability, desirability, and artistic vitality.

The Central Area is changing rapidly, from 12th Avenue to Lake Washington, and from Madison Street to I-90.  The Cultural District effort is trying to facilitate dialog with those bringing new development — We will have a better neighborhood if every new person knows and pay attention to the place to which he or she is moving.

Although one of the jobs of the effort is to call out places of importance in the African-American history of the neighborhood, it is much more than that.  In the hoped-for future, there will be more opportunities, not less, to see and celebrate African-American artistic and cultural heritage.  As one neighbor at the January SPCC meeting put it, there is a need to do more than create a neighborhood that is a “museum of where black people used to live” but also to attract more black people to stay in and return to the neighborhood.

For neighbors who are not black, but who so often speak of their appreciation of the neighborhood’s “diversity”, the challenge will be to recognize and respect the heritage which is an important source of that diversity.

Matthew Richter, the Cultural Space Liaison for the City of Seattle, was recently quoted in the “Seattle Weekly” as saying that, with Capitol Hill, the City’s first designated cultural district “we need to remind people this is more than a binge-drinking neighborhood” and in the Central District, “we need to remind people this is more than a housing neighborhood for tech workers.”

Official designation of the District by the City comes with a grant of $50,000 and a “creative placemaking toolkit”.  The toolkit includes programs, projects, and mechanisms to support district identification, wayfinding, busking and plein air painting support, art historic markers, pop-up space activations, parklets, “build art space” certification, and cultural preservation and landmarking.

The primary Arts District Development Partners include: Northwest African American Museum, Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute, Meredith Mathews YMCA, Black Heritage Society of Washington State, Coyote Central, The Hidmo Cypher, Brownbox Theatre, Seattle Black Arts Alliance, Central District Forum for Arts and Ideas, Pratt Fine Arts Center, Corona Café, Jubilee Community Church NuBlack Arts West Theatre, and is in partnership with Africatown, Ariel Productions, and the James and Janie Washington Foundation.

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