The center of what was once the mecca of Black life in Seattle is being re-energized by the return of a physical manifestation of Black pride. Over the past few years, signs of restoration have emerged as Black-led development increases and other new developments carry the signature of Black culture that cared for and built this central location within the city’s core.
There is no overlooking the fact that Seattle’s Central District was also home to a vibrant Jewish and Pan-Asian community, at one time making it a richly diverse community, but the predominance of Black life that boasted 70% residency of African Americans at its peak in the 1970s, holds the primary responsibility for shaping and nurturing this piece of our city’s fabric. The data shows that the decline in Black residency had fallen to below 15% by the 2020 census, indicating severe injury to a sense of pride and belonging among generations of African Americans.
A cornerstone project that is getting lots of attention, Midtown Square, is perhaps one of the most prominent indicators of the desire by Black residents across the city to illustrate that we were here, we are still here, and we intend to be here into the future. ARTE NOIR is thrilled to be a part of this reemergence as we draw closer to opening a 'by us for us' Black art and culture space, which will serve as the anchor tenant at Midtown on the prominent corner of 23rd and Union.
The art that adorns this building is a reflection of the enormous talent of artists of African descent, who also have roots and relationships to the Central District. You can read about the artists here, and we especially want to lift up those in our community who led the process of selecting the artists and who volunteered their time, but are rarely mentioned or recognized. Without them, the Reverence and Discovery art theme would not have come to life in the way that it has now become the absolute talk of the town.
The Reverence and Discovery art theme for Midtown Square was derived from a review that took place over two years of community engagement feedback. Central District residents made it clear that they wanted the art to reflect a sense of legacy while also providing a point of inspiration. When you view the art, you should see both of these themes embodied in authentic and intentional ways. We celebrate the artists, and we give honor to the arts advisory group, who in 2019 helped guide the process and select the artists now represented at Midtown Square. They are:
Angela Brown - Director of Marketing & Communications (2019), Pratt Fine Arts Center and HCAACD member Brace Evans - Performing Artist, Capitol Hill Resident, Capitol Hill Arts & Cultural District Member Leilani Lewis - Independent Cultural Curator (2019) Stephanie Johnson-Toliver - Black Heritage Society of Washington State President and HCAACD Member Margo Jones - AfricaTown Community Land Trust Board Chair and Owner of A Personal Point of View Eve Sanford - Pratt Fine Arts Center Programs Director (2019) and HCAACD Member Claudia Stelle - Coyote Central Executive Director Earnest Thomas - Onyx Fine Arts Collective President, Visual Artist
Additional early support and guidance were provided by: Tim Lennon, Elisheba Johnson, Inye Wokoma, Kathy Fowells, Benote Hill, Perri Rhoden, and Keith Williams.
The process was led by ARTE NOIR founder and arts consultant, Vivian Phillips, working together with project architectural consultant Rico Quirindongo and artist/muralist Aramis Hamer.
To the arts advisory panel and everyone else that helped to inform this entire process, we tip our hats to your leadership and often quiet commitment to our community. You ARE the village! 🤎