Black Arts Legacies highlights the longstanding, vital and ongoing role of Black artists and Black arts organizations in the cultural landscape of the Seattle region.
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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.
Theater Director, Educator
Theater Producer, Poet
Visual Artist, Curator
Poet, Visual Artist
Visual Artist, Graphic Designer
Theater Producer, Director
Conversations about Black arts venues in the neighborhood led to stories of creation, loss and preservation.
From intricate portraits to multistory murals, Al Doggett and Barry Johnson honor the history of Black art in Seattle and paint its future.
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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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.