Mayor Murray signed legislation today 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 as well as a neighborhood undergoing rapid change. The Arts District designation recognizes the culturally rich neighborhood and seeks to preserve its character.
“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. “We also seek to build a vibrant arts environment and opportunities for creative industries to thrive in the Central Area for years to come.”
“The idea of an arts and cultural district in the Central Area actually predates the recent efforts to establish these districts,” said Steve Sneed, Historic Central Area Arts and Cultural District co-chair. “We’ve talked about and dreamt about something like this for more than 20 years, and now we’ve been able to turn that into action.”
The Historic Central Area Arts and Cultural District designation is dedicated to:
- Preserving an African and African-American legacy in the Central Area.
- Sustaining and strengthening the physical identity and sense of place for Black cultural relevancy.
- Establishing continued support of artistic creation, economic vibrancy, livability, affordability, desirability and artistic vitality.
“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. “The arts offers unlimited opportunity to stand firm in the present while giving honor to the past, and creating new paths to the future.”
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 Central Area is Seattle’s historically African-American neighborhood and in a rapidly changing environment remains the nucleus for black art, business and culture. The 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 numerous others.
This week, Mayor Murray announced the City of Seattle’s $45 million investment in affordable housing development through the Office of Housing’s Rental Housing Program. Once completed, these 809 apartments will be home to low-income families, youth, seniors, and single adults, some of whom would otherwise be homeless.
The 2015 award is the City’s largest ever investment in affordable housing. In his 2015 State of the City address, Murray also pledged $35 million to implement the recommendations of Seattle’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) advisory committee.
What would you tell your child if they had to start over? If the friends they made would no longer be in the same classroom the next morning? If the teacher they grew to love didn’t show up the next day? What would you say to your kid if a group of judges decided to shut down their school due to a legal loophole?
When the Washington State Supreme Court ruled that public charter schools were no longer eligible for state funding, it signaled to thousands of low-income families that the judges alone know what’s best in the classroom, that the will of millions of voters isn’t valid and that one-size-fits-all education is the law of the land in Washington state.
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Washington voters made these innovative public schools possible, creating real opportunities for children who had been failed by decades of de facto segregation and inequity. This isn’t just an education issue, it’s a social justice issue. Seventy percent of the kids in public charter schools come from families of color and more than half qualify for lunch subsidies.
We need your help to call on our elected leaders to confront this legal challenge to Washington’s public schools. Olympia cannot stand by and let the courts deny Washington’s children real opportunity. Our state made a commitment to the children already enrolled in public charter schools and the many more still waiting in line. It’s time to deliver on that promise.
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