The Rainier Arts Center in Southeast Seattle celebrates its 100th anniversary

by Amanda Ong

On July 20, 2022, Effective Development of the Southeast (SEEDS) and SEEDArts will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Rainier Arts Center! The event will include live outdoor performances from the ADEFUA Cultural Education Workshop and musical duo Ben Hunter and Joe Seamonsfollowed by refreshments Chief Tarik Abdullah of feed the people. The event is free and open to the public, but space at reception is limited, so anyone wishing to attend should register on their Eventbrite page.

The Rainier Art Center was originally occupied by the Fifth Church of Christ, Scientist, and was built in 1922. The building was vacant for many years and was purchased by SEED in 1995. After renovations, it opened in 1997 as the premier multicultural performing arts center in the Southeast. Seattle. It was originally called the Rainier Valley Cultural Center, from 1989 to 2016. In 2016, SEED renamed it the Rainier Arts Center.

“It was really at the request of the community that SEED purchased the building,” said Kathy Fowells, Director of SEEDArts. the south seattle emerald.

SEED is a non-profit organization founded in 1975, and its SEEDArts division works specifically in the arts, affordable housing, and economic development. SEEDArts has five main programs, including running the Rainier Art Center, the Columbia City Gallery, their radio station KVRU 105.7, their affordable SEEDArts studios, and their public programs with Columbia Hillman Arts & Cultural District as SEEDArts Public and Community Arts .

The Rainier Arts Center has become a key community resource and has hosted events such as the Ethiopian Cultural Arts Festival, Vietnamese Remember Saigon Festival and Odunde Festival. The Center launched its Anchor Partner program in 2019, which provides an affordable hosting base for grassroots arts and culture organizations that did not have their own space or had been displaced.

“[Anchor Partners] all pay a low monthly fee to be an anchor partner and then can use the center for all of their meetings, rehearsals, events and classes,” Fowells said. “I love the Anchor Partners program because it allowed us to really activate this space, especially during the downtime between rental events, but more importantly it gave to organizations that couldn’t afford their own place a point of attachment.”

Current anchor partners are ADEFUA Cultural Education Workshop, Seattle King County Khmer Communityand Was at.

The building also underwent renovations between 2020 and 2021. Some of the more significant updates include a large curtain, an improved sound system, and a green room. Even the renovations to the building, Fowell says, were done with community feedback in mind.

“The reason we purchased and remodeled the Arts Center is because so many people in the community and the organization said, ‘Hey, this iconic neighborhood building, it’s got to serve the community,'” Fowell said. “We listen to the community…Like a lot of bands said, ‘We can’t use this space, because there’s no backstage.’ So we renovated the ground floor and built a green room, and I think, you know, for a facility to serve the community, it has to take its direction from the community.

The 100th anniversary not only refers to the building’s status as the Rainier Center for the Arts, but also to the fact that it served as a community facility for 100 years. The building is an area landmark in its presiding location at Columbia Park, one of Southeast Seattle’s most important green spaces.

“It’s really the fact that the establishment is in the neighborhood [it is] that makes it so special,” Fowells said. “One of my goals in my work is to ensure that artists and arts and cultural organizations have the space in their new neighborhood to do their work… live from their work and, at the same time, enrich the community by bringing these events right to the heart of the neighborhood. It breaks down a lot of barriers.”

As Southeast Seattle struggles with gentrification and displacement, art spaces are often undervalued and some of the first to be displaced. For over 25 years, the Rainier Arts Center has provided a home for the arts within the community to ensure that artistic spaces are not forgotten. Yet the threat of displacement remains a general problem in the region.

“It’s even more heartbreaking because it’s the most diverse community in the city, and as you see this rapid development coming to the neighborhood, I see more and more artists and arts organizations getting kicked out. “, Fowells said. “I’m scared, because there’s no further south where you can push people. If we kick them out of Rainier Valley, they’ll go to Renton, Kent, Federal Way. And the city of Seattle is losing that creative heart and soul.

Fowells says there is a small window to ensure we invest in facilities and infrastructure to support the creative economy in Southeast Seattle. The Rainier Arts Center is a vital facility in this window, making the building’s 100th anniversary even more worth celebrating.

“We really wanted to throw a party, really just to thank everyone for being involved,” Fowells said. “And to give the community a chance to come in and say, ‘Wow, look at that, this place has really changed a lot in the last two years. “”

Celebrate the Rainier Arts Center’s 100th Anniversary with SEED and SEEDArts on Tuesday, July 20 from 5:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Rainier Arts Center at 8515 South Alaska St. RSVP to the event via the Eventbrite page.

The Rainier Arts Center is always looking for community partners and sponsors, volunteers and donors. Connect with them about opportunities across the Rainier Art Center website.

Amanda Ong (she) is a Chinese-American writer from California. She is currently a master’s candidate in the University of Washington’s Museology program and graduated from Columbia University in 2020 with degrees in Creative Writing and Ethnic and Racial Studies.

📸 The featured image: Tomorrow, July 20, the Rainier Arts Center celebrates its 100th anniversary as a hub of culture and communities in Seattle’s South End. (Photo: Kathy Fowell)

Before you move on to the next story …
Please consider that the article you just read was made possible by the generous financial support of donors and sponsors. The Emerald is a BIPOC-led nonprofit news outlet with the mission of offering a wider lens of our region’s most diverse, least affluent, and woefully under-reported communities. Please consider making a one-time gift or, better yet, joining our Rainmaker Family by becoming a monthly donor. Your support will help provide fair pay for our journalists and enable them to continue writing the important stories that offer relevant news, information, and analysis. Support the Emerald!

William E. Bennett