Washington Hall, one of the Seattle orgs that has benefited from the Cultural Facilities Fund.
Washington Hall, one of the Seattle orgs that has benefited from the Cultural Facilities Fund. EUGENIA WOO, HISTORIC SEATTLE

Excellent move! The Seattle Office of Arts & Culture (ARTS) has recently boosted their support of the Cultural Facilities Fund—money that helps local arts and culture organizations (like museums and galleries, theaters and cinemas, bookstores, record stores, live music venues, and multidisciplinary arts spaces) develop much needed capital projects to improve their facilities and build infrastructure for years to come.

The funding could amount to a decent windfall for small arts and cultural organizations throughout Seattle, which are struggling with rising rent and gentrification.

“The story of Seattle’s growth is the story of the under-investment in, and ultimately the displacement of, the diverse communities that have added cultural richness to the city,” a recent ARTS report concluded.

“Communities of color, LGBTQ communities, people experiencing poverty, immigrant and refugee communities, and the artists and cultural organizations that reflect and represent those communities have been left unprotected.”

The report has found that cultural spaces struggle with “an exhausting series of relatively low hurdles,” and recommends 30 ideas for preserving and building cultural spaces, including streamlining the permitting process for cultural space projects, exploring more live/work spaces for artists, incentivizing cultural uses in older buildings, and match-making developers with cultural organizations seeking space.

And one of the most important ideas: requiring private buildings that have displaced cultural spaces to offer space to them, in-kind and onsite.

Ironically, the report goes on to say that developers actually want to build in neighborhoods that have cultural spaces, whose very presence helped create the land value which those developers crave. But there is, according to the report, “room in these strong markets to find mutual benefits for both developers and the community by creating new space for the cultural uses that bring value to all.”

Look, old Seattle was awesome. But let’s face it, the days of cheap basement rehearsal spaces and DIY galleries may not be long for this world, and developers aren’t going anywhere. A forward-thinking city that wishes to preserve and protect these valuable spaces would be wise to find ways to work with developers, and the Seattle Office of Arts and Culture is seeking to do just that. Now, we just have to get the developers to stop and listen.