It's no secret that a number of Seattle's newest buildings – whether they're for businesses or apartment-dwellers – look pretty damn similar. To me, many of them resemble a patchwork of multi-colored shipping containers, most of which I've written off as more unaffordable housing options.
The Mt. Baker Lofts are part of the nationwide ArtSpace projects, which include similar residences across the nation. They all provide affordable housing for eligible artists and creative professionals, as well as commercial space. Currently the Mt. Baker residency hosts up to 50 artists with hundreds more on the waiting list.
The units, which are living and working spaces, include studio, one-bedroom, and three-bedroom units. The monthly rents range from $431 to $1,293 and there is a two- to four-year waiting list for a space, a Mt. Baker Lofts manager wrote in an email. Jen Graves explains the importance of affordable housing for artists, particularly artists of color, here.
And the artists living here don’t have to look far to see the variability and span of the local art scene. These residents have occupations and fields of work that range from dollmaking, to mixed-media sculpture, to videography. Collaborations are common between artists, such as a cartoonist and a videographer creating a Japanese character stop-motion movie. Subsequently, their work has been displayed at numerous galleries and shows around the city and across the country.
And for a number of artists, as Emerald writer Jeff Nguyen points out, the lofts help foster a sense of community in the city's constantly evolving arts scene.
For [Seattle native and resident sculptor and metalworker Henry] Jackson-Spieker, being connected to the local scene means that he can participate in the exciting and unexpected that the local art scene has to offer, “With the influx of people to Seattle, there’s a lot of push and pull in speaking about expanding the art scene,” said Jackson-Spieker. “And it’s all really interesting. I feel really fortunate to be plugged into this vibrant, constantly changing scene.” Cundiff has also acknowledged the bonds between artists, and speaks highly of opportunities that bring creatives together.
Part of the Mt. Baker Lofts' ground floor is home to Compadre Coffee, which regularly showcases art and performances from loft residents and other South Seattle creatives, Nguyen writes.
The café has had an influx of unique talent from across the South Seattle area. Local workers coming off their shifts, students, and ordinary residents around the Rainier Vista and Columbia City neighborhoods have showed off their talents here. “One of the Franklin High School students comes and plays, some musicians a couple blocks down the street. Some of the Metro bus drivers formed a band and played here,” said [coffee shop owner Aubrey] Batchelor. ...
This strong local foundation of arts institutions reaffirms Batchelor’s faith in the community connections and cultural identity through supporting local artists. For many of the Lofts’ artists, the support for the local art scene has become a vital pathway to their success.
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