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Recap: Square Feet 2013

“One third of all cultural space in Seattle has been counted so far; we’ve found 2.8 million square feet …and we’re still counting.” – Matthew Richter

With construction crews around every corner, it feels like a time of heavy development and change in Seattle. We must ensure that arts, culture, diversity and curious people remain in the heart of the city to keep Seattle interesting, vibrant and dynamic. It is crucial to bring the issue of cultural space to the table, to ensure that the quality and quantity of spaces that currently exists survives and grows. That’s why we hosted Square Feet 2013, to hear the voices of our community regarding cultural space in Seattle.

The Square Feet 2013 event on November 18 was split into three sections: “rapid fire” presentations from local arts leaders, a presentation by researcher Anne Gadwa Nicodemus and a session to brainstorm ideas to help Seattle’s cultural space.

Square Feet Summit November 2013-27Starting at the Lee Center for Arts on Seattle University campus, Office of Arts & Culture director Randy Engstrom kicked off the day with the reminder that “arts is the how.” Next, a dozen local leaders in the arts discussed their organizations’ recent issues with space in Seattle. Presenters included Yoko Ott from The New Foundation, Wier Harmon from Town Hall, Marshall Foster of Seattle Department of Planning and Development and many more. Recurring themes included room for growth, affordable space, gentrification, and expanding neighborhood and community involvement.

The group moved to Northwest Film Forum to listen to Anne Gadwa Nicodemus, who wrote Creative Placemaking. Nicodemus discussed cities with varying methods of districting cultural space, such as New Orleans which declares over half of its city a cultural district, to Los Angeles which (like Seattle) has no defined districts. She also discussed ways the public and private sectors can work together to inspire new places through new partnerships, and different qualities of cultural districts and how they can develop.

Square Feet Summit November 2013-63After this fascinating talk, Velocity Dance Center hosted a session in which participants were divided into five groups tasked with developing a proposal that would better or further cultural space in Seattle. From the five proposals, one would be selected to receive $10,000 towards an RFQ (request for proposals) process to make it happen. After much discussion five ideas were developed:

  1. Dedicated shuttle to help patrons get to venues and neighborhoods, and which could feature areas of play at bus stops, art walks and specialty events
  2. Matchmaking for 5-year capitol campaigns in Seattle. Consulting organization to explore shared space and national resources
  3. Chamber of Culture – Create a member-based cultural organizations for mutual support
  4. Space broker – create tools developers and real estate brokers to help them understand the usefulness of arts and artists, how they can serve artists better and how they will benefit. Could include space use negotiation.
  5. Cultural star certification (like LEED certification) for arts organizations. Hire consultant to examine certificates and incentives and write a dedicated policy

Square Feet Summit November 2013-68These ideas were presented to a panel  of young people that included Seattle University Master’s Program in Arts Leadership students, a TeenTix member, and a staff member of the Henry Art Museum and was led by Randy Engstrom. After thoughtful debate, they selected the idea of addressing a policy around cultural star certification!­­

We’re currently working on a (RFP) for this project which should be ready next week. However, we plan to pursue all five ideas in the coming years. It is crucial to hear community feedback – many thanks to all who planned and participated in this event. Watch for our next cultural space event, slated to happen in late spring or early summer 2014!

Photos by Jenny Crooks