You might be hard-pressed to find another Space Needle out there, but what really makes Seattle unique is its people and the cool things we do — you know, like our arts and culture.
To help protect these vital parts of the community, the City of Seattle created four Arts and Cultural Districts: Capitol Hill, Uptown, Central Area, and Columbia City + Hillman City. Through funding and other resources, the city supports local arts-related organizations and nonprofits in these areas.
Over the next few months, we’ll take you on a quick tour of each of the districts — but for now, let’s talk a little bit about the program as a whole.
Know your history
In 2008, a volunteer-led group completed a report that suggested the local government help preserve the arts by creating the overlay district (or a type of city zoning that sits on top of already existing zoning like a layer of paint) that had their own incentives for supporting arts groups. The city approved the recommendations in 2009 and set to work. Capitol Hill became the first Arts and Cultural District in 2014.
How do they work?
The Arts and Cultural District program was created under the philosophy of “placemaking,” an urban design process that looks to residents for inspiration on what kinds of buildings and spaces they’d like to see in the neighborhood.
The city decides on regulations and incentives that it would like to put in place that encourages developments like low income housing or makes it easier for arts groups to move in. This is why you’ll see that areas like Capitol Hill have 40+ arts groups in a small chunk of the city.
Looking to dive in? The City of Seattle has a list of all of the arts organizations that reside in each of its districts for locals to peruse and learn about.
Uptown Arts and Cultural District
Uptown became the city’s third official Arts and Culture District in 2017. But its reputation as a hub for cool stuff started back with the 1962 World’s Fair — ever heard of it?
The district stretches all the way from the Seattle Center into Lower Queen Anne and is supported by 45+ local arts and cultural organizations. It’s also connected by the Uptown Arts & Culture Coalition — a member-led nonprofit seeking to help each org thrive.
- ArtsFund | This nonprofit distributes grants to various arts organizations. Since its founding, the fund has distributed more than $100 million to 650+ grantees.
- Queen Anne Historical Society | Dedicated to preserving and documenting the neighborhood’s history, the group is also a great resource for finding information on the area’s 50+ landmarks and historic homes.
- ArtsED Washington | This nonprofit works to make sure every student has access to arts as part of their K-12 education.
Places to see a show
- McCaw Hall | Both the Pacific Northwest Ballet and the Seattle Opera stage their performances here.
- SIFF Cinema Uptown | What began as solely a film festival is now a multi-theater organization aimed at educating others through the power of storytelling.
- Chihuly Garden and Glass | Oooh and ahhhh at the world-famous glass artists’ works or check out a live glass-blowing demo.
- Pacific Science Center | This spot known for its iconic arches was established during the 1962 World’s Fair as “the nation’s first science and technology center.”
- Seattle Children’s Museum | Let the kiddos learn about local Indigenous tribes and explore the PNW in a recreated mountain landscape.