Morning Fizz

Safe (Cultural) Spaces

Fire, rents, syphilis, and snow.

By Josh Feit December 9, 2016

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1. The recent tragedy in Oakland—a deadly fire at a DIY Oakland, California arts space—wasn’t, arts activists say, merely about faulty wiring and code violations. There’s a larger story: Skyrocketing rents in the gentrifying city are forcing arts groups into marginalized spaces, often underground ones, which establishes a false choice between safety and affordability. If you can’t afford a space, you don’t have a choice.

This sounds familiar to Seattle arts groups.

Seattle’s office of arts and culture, which helped establish Capitol Hill as an official arts district, including funding and programming at the new V2 community space on Capitol Hill, has been concerned about the impact of soaring rents on cultural life in Seattle for a while.   They like to point out that the “Livability” in the mayor’s “Housing Affordablity and Livability Agenda,” with the program's mandates on developers to build and preserve affordable housing, is also about culture. The office believes that HALA should include incentives for developers to support arts spaces in arts districts.

The office has been tracking the stability of arts and culture spaces in the city with a “Cultural Space Inventory” that includes a self-reported “stability index” for arts groups.

The organizations, both for-profits and non-profits, and both the above-250,000 square feet venues (only four of those in the city) and the below-5,000 square feet venues (more than 130 of those), report how secure they’re feeling; a rating of one is “not secure at all” and five is “completely secure.”

On average the community feels “relatively secure,” according to the report.  However, the arts office notes: “Depressingly, if not predictably, an organization’s target audience’s race provides the most dramatic difference in a feeling of stability and security.”

The stats below show that African-American and Native-American arts groups are not feeling secure.

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The data also shows that out of the 150-plus organizations in town, about twenty have closed over the last three years.

Of course, tracking the kind of DIY and underground arts spaces that the Oakland tragedy calls our attention to is tricky because they don’t show up in the data—which is kind of a metaphor for the issue, I guess.

Alarmed by the fire in Oakland, a member of the local DIY arts community has organized  a “DIY Organizers Meeting” on Monday to “Develop and Emergency Action Plan.”

In addition to discussing how to deal with fires, natural disaster, medical emergencies, and active shooters, the Facebook announcement states that DIY organizers will: “participate in a discussion around identifying needs, [and] developing resources.

“This workshop is designed mostly for organizers/promoters/DIY individuals who book and work in DIY spaces," the announcement says. "It would probably be helpful for people who simply attend shows, but will be geared towards those who put them on… Our hearts are with those in Oakland, and we are certainly all mourning,” it concludes.

2. Following up on yesterday's report on the dramatic increase in syphilis in King County, here's the raw data comparing 2010 (see page 23) and 2015 (see  page 40) tracking an increase from 289 cases to 444.

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3. The 48th Legislative District PCO vote to appoint a new state senator (to replace incoming Lieutenant governor, outgoing state senator Cyrus Habib, D-48, Kirkland) and a new state house member (because one of the two current house members will get the senate appointment) was cancelled last night due to snow. Progressives are anxious that the one person of color in the race, Bellevue City Council member Vandana Slatter who’s going for the house appointment, and the one gay person in the race, state representative Joan McBride who's going for the senate appointment, are going to lose out.

4. Speaking of last night’s snow. It was pretty glorious.

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