Painter, musician, educator
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Black Arts Legacies recognizes an intergenerational group of 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.
Painter, musician, educator
Visual artist, educator
Musician, Arts Facilitator
Theater Director, Educator
Theater Producer, Poet
Visual Artist, Curator
Poet, Visual Artist
Visual Artist, Graphic Designer
Theater Producer, Director
Seattle playwright Cheryl L. West is known for bringing complicated historical figures to life, including Fannie Lou Hamer, the American civil rights activist from Mississippi. Here, actress E. Faye Butler plays the lead in Fannie: The Music and Life of Fannie Lou Hamer at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago. (Liz Lauren)
Seattle poet Quenton Baker's latest collection, ballast, is based on a U.S. Senate document detailing the only successful shipboard revolt of enslaved people in American history. Baker redacts the official text to tell a new, untold story about the people who made the remarkable choice to fight back. (Meron Menghistab for Crosscut)
The late Northwest television titan Nate Long was devoted to diversifying the airwaves with Black stories and voices. As part of these efforts, he created the TV series South by Northwest, detailing the early history of Black people in the Pacific Northwest. Here, a still from an episode about Black cowboys. (Courtesy of Washington State University)
Artist and longtime Seattle teacher Preston Wadley believes in the importance of engaging your brain with art. (Video by Tifa Tomb)
Conversations about Black arts venues in the neighborhood led to stories of creation, loss and preservation.
“My favorite way of making art is in collaboration with other folks who know music is only made richer with dance,” Hunter says. “They go hand in hand.”
Since moving to Seattle more than 15 years ago, Hunter has used music to build space and community for local artists of many genres. And boy, has he been busy.
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Though the Madrona theater closed in 1980, several artists trace their current work to its heyday.
Meet the Seattle music pioneer Dave Lewis and see how the contemporary band The Black Tones is carrying the DNA of Northwest rock forward.
The late couple’s house in Seattle’s Central District is now a cultural center that inspires the next generation of creatives.
“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.”
For dancer-choreographers Donald Byrd and Jade Solomon Curtis, social engagement takes center stage.
Transformed by a 1960s urban relief program, a former synagogue has fostered generations of Black artists even as the neighborhood around it changes.
“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 Central District institution has a complicated backstory and an important role to play for Seattle's Black arts community.