Seattle Mayor Murray signed legislation yesterday creating the Historic Central Area Arts and Cultural District, the second Seattle neighborhood to be named a designated Arts & Cultural District. The Central Area is a center of African-American heritage and history.
“With this designation, we recognize the importance of the Central Area and the contributions of African Americans to Seattle’s rich and diverse cultural traditions as we seek to both honor and shape the legacy of the neighborhood,” said Mayor Ed Murray in a news release. “We also seek to build a vibrant arts environment and opportunities for creative industries to thrive in the Central Area for years to come.”
Seattle’s Central Area has been home to some of the world’s most respected artists, including Jimi Hendrix, Quincy Jones, Theaster Gates, James Washington, Vitamin D, Ernestine Anderson, Ray Charles, Art Chantry and many more.
The Central area is a narrow stretch of Central Seattle between 15th Avenue and 31st Avenue, roughly with Madison Street at the north and Judkins Park at the south. According to demographic data analyzed by Gene Balk for the Seattle Times in May of this year, ”The census shows that in 1970, more than 15,000 blacks called this area home, making up 73 percent of the neighborhood’s population. By the 2010 census, the neighborhood had become majority white. Today, the number of blacks has dwindled to less than 5,000 — not even 20 percent of CD residents, according to 2014 estimates from Nielsen.”
The arts district designation creates access to the Creative Placemaking Toolkit, a suite of tools designed to preserve, strengthen, and expand arts and cultural places. The district will have access to $50,000 to be used towards the toolkit’s programs: signs to identify neighborhood borders and provide directions to significant places and landmarks; music and art in public places; pop-up activation; and parklets. The toolkit was designed by the Seattle Office Arts and Culture to support artists, art spaces, and neighborhoods in maintaining and investing in their cultural assets.
“The heritage of African-Americans in the Central Area has served this city in so many ways and now we have an opportunity to bring new life and meaning to a sacred past, and to be a force that helps to shape the future,” said Stephanie Johnson-Toliver of the Black Heritage Society of Washington said in the news release. “The arts offers unlimited opportunity to stand firm in the present while giving honor to the past, and creating new paths to the future.”