Happy Birthday to Us!
October 1, 2021 marked the 10th anniversary of our founding.
What started as a tale of eviction, traffic and threats of earthquake has since turned into a stable, successful fixture and cultural icon of the historic arts district.
In 2011, 110 artists were evicted from the 619 Western building, the largest and longest- running artists’ community on the West Coast. The Washington State Department of Transportation (DOT) was paving the way for the State Route 99 tunnel, which would pass underneath the building.
The headlines screamed “artists evicted,” and much ink was spilled on the myth of the starving artist — hapless, helpless, and now, homeless.
Many of the artists themselves, however, had another plan in mind. As required by law, the DOT was to provide relocation benefits to qualifying artist-businesses. Resourcefully, about a dozen of the displaced artists pooled their benefits to build a new community of studios out of a vacant office space a few blocks away at 110 Cherry Street.
The timeline for their move was further accelerated when City of Seattle engineers independently determined the building to be seismically unstable, an immediate threat to life and limb.
Artist Jane Richlovsky took out a master lease on a floor of the historic Scheuerman Building around the corner on Cherry Street, secured permits, and found a contractor. She worked with other artists and the DOT to fund the moving of lights and walls, as well as the installation of work sinks and other amenities.
The artists put the finishing touches on the place, accomplishing the entire task in six weeks and moving in October 1, 2011, the deadline to vacate the old building.
Collaborations have been born within these walls, and our semi-annual open houses are popular destinations for exhibits, music, and affordable art. We have hosted tours of the studios for groups such as Main Street America, Alliance for Pioneer Square, Urban Land Institute, as well as college students from the University of Washington, and high school students bussed in from Mukilteo, Washington and Whitefish, Montana.
Wanting to assure ‘57 Biscayne’s future, as Pioneer Square grew into a restaurant and tech haven, Richlovsky and her partner Steve Coulter teamed up with Cherry Street Coffee House owner Ali Ghambari and developer Greg Smith to purchase the entire building together in 2015.
They formed Good Arts LLC with the mission of offering affordable workspace for artists and other creative small businesses to ensure the continued vitality and character of Pioneer Square and Seattle.
A few years later, when a tech company vacated another floor in the building, Good Arts built out another dozen studios, doubling ‘57 Biscayne’s capacity.
As creative spaces around the city have been lost to development and rising rents, many displaced artists have found their way to ‘57 Biscayne.
For ten years, the studios have been affordable workspace for a variety of artists, including painters, printmakers, analogue and digital photographers, jewelers, ceramicists, public artists, videographers, book designers, clothing designers, architects, a marimba duo and even a boutique video game console manufacturer.
Due to uncertainties around the Delta variant and ever-changing Covid protocols, a planned in-person 10th anniversary celebration has been cancelled.
Instead, we’ve created an online showcase of pictures, writing and videos centered around the work people have made and what their time here has meant to their artistic growth and careers.
This just in: A deal is imminent yet still unofficial that will ensure the existence of ‘57 Biscayne in perpetuity. Stay tuned!