The Belmont is a small old apartment building on Capitol Hill, redolent of a squat. Across the street is Press, a tall shiny condominium building, already redolent of the future. The two have been in a kind of staring match since 2002: the Belmont all squinty and weathered, the kind of building you would like to feed some soup; Press all unflinching, obnoxious pride.
As of November 30, the condos will have officially won. The low-rent residents of the Belmont, many of them artists, will be evicted to make way for a new condo development, as will the rest of the residents of the 500 block of Pine Street (a center of gravity for Seattle music, culture, and sleaze). But not before they have their final say. On the night of the eviction, the Belmont will become The Belmont, with murals on every wall (outside and inside), installations in every apartment, and a performance by Implied Violence on the roof.
Last Sunday night, the inside of the Belmont already looked like a Barcelona squat, with paintings and photo collages covering the walls and ceilings. Some were by local graffiti heroes like Specs (two green faces at the top of a flight of stairs), some by cartoonist Ellen Forney (hers wasn't done yet), and dozens of others. The unofficial leader of the Belmont, named Nko ("knee-ko") was cooking squash and potato soup in one of the apartments while other people painted on the walls, drank beer, and smoked. Someone in the next room was playing an accordion.
"We're dressing up this corpse for a second," Nko said, leaning on a crutch. (He shattered his heel in a biking accident a few months ago.) "Then this space will be demolished. Our memories will be unanchored from architectural space." Nko said The Belmont will feel more like a funeral than a party; all the music will be dour.
The bars on the block of 500 Pine Street—Pony, the Bus Stop, Kincora—will be hosting their wakes as well. The whole neighborhood will be going bonkers, but nobody will be able to get into The Belmont without tickets, which can be procured on the day of the event at a downtown crepe stand. (See Theater Calendar for details.)
The artists only gave hints about what, exactly, they'll be doing. Implied Violence's rooftop performance includes samples from Triumph of the Will and The Chronic. Nko said one of the apartments will have "some serious nature shit." His installation involves sentences from Derrida's The Truth in Painting and an old oil-painting manual that belonged to his dead grandmother. "The combination is sort of interesting," he says, holding a hot bowl of soup. "The nostalgic and formal along with the deconstructionist. But nobody'll notice. They'll just be drunk and walking through."