Transforming abandoned buildings into ephemeral artistic spaces is not a new idea, but it feels particularly appropriate in Seattle. Currently in the middle of a housing boom, the city retains little of its 90s grunge scene today. But some local artists are determined to keep Seattle’s underground cultural scene alive, and have created LoveCityLove to bring new creative spaces into existence.
Seattle is changing. The former working class city and grunge capital is now one of the most rapidly developing cities in the United States! Rent prices are going up, and Seattle’s growth is far from over. These changes are having a major impact on the city’s cultural scene. But rather than wallow in self-pity, the artists of LoveCityLove saw the opportunity to reinvest in urban spaces. They occupy abandoned buildings that are earmarked for demolition or renovation and transform these places into temporary cultural spaces. We met with Jessa Carter and Julian Genette, two of the project’s founding members.
What is the idea behind LoveCityLove?
We “activate” buildings/spaces that are waiting to be redeveloped. In a city growing as fast as Seattle, there are countless buildings that are awaiting this fate. No long-term leases can be signed as not many are willing to work in such temporary spaces. Because of this, LoveCityLove has found a niche. We’re able to gain access to these places with a rather low barrier to entry. And the building owners and property managers are able to help provide amazing access to the arts by allowing us to occupy their space until it’s to be demolished. It’s a win/win! In a way, it’s a living history of the unprecedented changes happening to the physical and cultural landscape of Seattle. I like to describe it as a kind of “New Orleans-style funeral” for the various buildings we transform: We help fill the space with music, art, dance, and celebrations on its way out. New chapters…
Tell us about some of the different spaces you have transformed up to now…
This is our fifth location in two years. Every space has its own residual energy. All of us really believe that the land itself, the structure itself, the neighborhood itself all have their own innate attributes or “vibes”: Melrose felt like California; Pike & Summit felt like Andy Warhol’s Factory; Azteca felt like Miami and smelled like salsa; 7th & Cherry was like a parallel dimension. Now, our Royal Drycleaner’s location, one could say it feels like the Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz.
Seattle is currently in a phase of total transformation and rent is going up. What impact is this situation having on the city’s cultural scene?
It’s very interesting for us. On one hand, the development boom is one of the ingredients in the pot that has allowed us access to so many vacant spaces. On the other, it’s one of the main reasons, in many cases, that culture makers can no longer afford to live in Seattle. It’s complicated. One would assume that beyond the prospect of work, many people move to Seattle because they’ve tasted what this city has/had to offer. The natural beauty in and around the city; the amazing foo;. all the music and arts. – I could go on!. But many of the people who make Seattle so Filthy are being pushed out of the equation. We’re not against development and growth, we just want to make sure that the PEOPLE have a say in – and a spacewithin – their city’s changes.
Is the underground scene still as strong here as it was in the past?
There seems to be more and more of this happening. With the traditional/established gallery setting showing primarily “known” artists, the underground scene has been a great source of what feels like real discovery. The scene is eclectic, emerging, pivoting, fighting back, trying to find a home, risk-taking, live…. a real experiment !
It can be tough to make ends meet! For example, Capitol Hill used to be a place where loads of creatives lived and worked because rent was affordable. That’s not the case anymore. While the city itself has priced many people out, some of the surrounding towns/communities have become artistic hubs. And with the metro opening (and slowly expanding) recently, the city and some of its surroundings are more easily accessible.
And sometimes the resources or platforms to build out your vision aren’t strong enough. That’s, sadly, why many Seattle cats go to places like NY or LA to further their craft. And it’s a large part of what LCL is trying to help fill. Hopefully, through this experiment, more of our friends will be able to get that same access locally.