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Black Arts Legacies

An artwork by Barry Johnson called "New Perspectives" wraps the exterior of the new Midtown Building located at 23rd & Union in Seattle.

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For the inaugural class of the Black Arts Legacies project, we are recognizing an intergenerational group of 26 local musicians, dancers, visual artists, poets, performers, curators and architects, whose creative expressions document the complexity of being a Black artist in Seattle. Theirs are stories of being the first, of contending with discrimination and breaking down barriers, of long careers and careers cut short, and of building community through the arts. Their stories help make sense of who we are — as a city and as a region — through songs, scripts, brush strokes, choreography, architecture and poetry. Learn more about the origins and aims of the project here.

Meet the artists

New Podcast: The afterlives of Seattle’s groundbreaking Black Arts/West theater

Street sign, building and playbill

Though the Madrona theater closed in 1980, several artists trace their current work to its heyday.

Bringing Black history and bold color to the cityscape

From intricate portraits to multistory murals, Al Doggett and Barry Johnson honor the history of Black art in Seattle and paint its future.

Expression through movement

Person in organge suit performs dance move in front of black screen
Person in black suit in front of black screen, as dancers dance besides him
Person in tight dance leotards with hands up in the air in ballet pose
Person with arms outstretched in front of black screen
black and white photo fo a person singing in the mic

An overlooked Seattle rock singer

Bam Bam performed on stages across the city and along the West Coast. Kurt Cobain allegedly served as roadie for the band for a time. So why didn’t Tina Bell get the attention and acclaim of other proto-grunge bands in Seattle?

“Proper erasure” is how TJ Martin explains it.

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The soul of Northwest rock ‘n’ roll

Meet the Seattle music pioneer Dave Lewis and see how the contemporary band The Black Tones is carrying the DNA of Northwest rock forward.

Foundational influencers

Person in black and white photo on orange and yellow
Bird carved out of stone
blue background with drawing and text that says Sty of the Blind Pig
Three story building with square windows

Podcast: How James and Janie Washington sculpted a legacy

Three photos of a home and one of a sculptor

The late couple’s house in Seattle’s Central District is now a cultural center that inspires the next generation of creatives.

Person in pink room with blue locks and pink balls floating around

The art of make believe

“Only thing I'm fighting for now is the land of make believe. Don't mess up my head. Do not take away the thing that I need in order to make this make sense and make this actually real. If I don't do it, it doesn't exist. If I don't create it, it doesn't exist.”

Pushing the boundaries of contemporary dance

For dancer-choreographers Donald Byrd and Jade Solomon Curtis, social engagement takes center stage.

Art of many layers

artwork showing black papercut paper overlaid on colorful paper, like a stained glass window
detail of metal-cut artwork featuring heads and a cowrie pattern
multimedia artwork

Podcast: How Black arts took center stage at Seattle’s Langston institute

One old photo of a building exterior, three recent photos of its interior

Transformed by a 1960s urban relief program, a former synagogue has fostered generations of Black artists even as the neighborhood around it changes.

Person in colorful hoodie sitting behind piano

Keeping memories of the Central District alive

“I feel like it's been a fight between us as Black people and the city, a fight for our own identity in a lot of ways. Because if we don't have our neighborhoods, we don't have our villages that we grew up in. Everyone's sort of dispersed. It makes it tough to continue to represent a city that you feel like is working avidly to wipe you out.”

The power of words

Person in graphic dress smiling at camera
Person holding book The Color of Culture
Person in pink jacket holding their sunglasses
Person holding a script

Podcast: A history of many hopes at the NW African American Museum

Building and museum exhibit

The Central District institution has a complicated backstory and an important role to play for Seattle's Black arts community.

Many Thanks To Our Sponsors

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BECU
Frye Art Museum
Seattle Art Museum
Eckerhaus Consulting
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DoubleXposure
Seattle Office of Arts & Culture
Seattle Arts Commission