It shouldn't have crossed anybody's tiny little mind.
But I'm always surprised by how tiny some minds can be. The newspapers mention the crushingly ironic detail that Kyle Huff, the shooter in the Saturday-morning massacre, attended a zombie-themed dance party called "Better Off Undead," where he met some of his future victims, at the Capitol Hill Arts Center. In response, a Seattle Post-Intelligencer reader wrote this "open letter" to CHAC: "If this weekend's killings of seven individuals don't focus bad publicity on your organization, they should... It is not acceptable to host activities such as raves at your facility." And, as one irksome reader commented on the Stranger site, "Why [was CHAC] even hosting this creepy, cracked-out raver event?"
Never mind whether the "rave" was creepy and cracked-out—I wasn't there, I couldn't say, and either way, it's immaterial. It's a dangerous fallacy to conflate the dance with the murder that happened afterwards. Hosting all kinds of music, theater, dance, and visual events—from gritty to haute, scary to sweet—is exactly what our local arts institutions should be doing.
I called artistic director Matthew Kwatinetz to ask how things were going for CHAC in the aftermath of the shootings. "I've been better," he said. "One of my friends got killed. We're not talking to the press anymore... That's it."
So, at the risk of being presumptuous, I'm going to talk for him, to give any anxious and suspicious strangers a tour of the Capitol Hill Arts Center—far from being a dank, druggy rave-hole, CHAC is a for-profit multidisciplinary arts center with a nonprofit, politically active atmosphere and heavy emphasis on theater and social justice.
Begin on the ground floor with Crave, a bright, cheery restaurant with big windows and an open kitchen. I'm a sucker for their pasta fazool, though one of my friends swears by the huevos rancheros. Another loves the crab melt (and the coffee and cornbread for breakfast). Head past the Pilates studio to the mainstage theater, with its high ceilings and shiny old hardwood floors (the building, at 12th Avenue and East Pine Street, used to be an auto showroom). A few plays produced there in the past couple of years: Arcadia (Tom Stoppard), Archangels Don't Play Pinball (Dario Fo), Death of a Salesman (Arthur Miller), The Resistable Rise of Arturo Ui (Bertolt Brecht), The Front Page (Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur), God's Country (Steven Dietz), Burning Bridget Cleary (Allison Gregory), Rhinoceros (Eugene Ionesco) and, in early April, Mike Daisey (of 21 Dog Years) will perform monologues about Tesla, Brecht, and P. T. Barnum from his Great Men of Genius series. If anything, CHAC's theater is too wholesome for my taste. (Incidentally, it was in this theater, a year and a month ago, that friends gathered to mourn the murder of Nicole duFresne, a local actor who had moved to New York and was shot down in a botched robbery attempt.)
You can have your merlot and Arthur Miller upstairs, and, downstairs you can also have your whiskey and rock show. Or, on election night 2004, your triple whiskey with multiple televisions blaring and angry Capitol Hillsters bawling. Iron Composer, the beautifully messy music/obstacle course/drinking game by Seattle School, was born at CHAC. People do all kinds of dancing in the building, from raves to belly dancing to Burning Man hippies banging bongos to rock shows to hip hop to salsa. CHAC is a big, varied space with a vast spectrum of events that play to the variety of Seattle's arts scene. It's just a block from the local police station and, since it opened in 2002, has never hosted an event that ended in violence.
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