Arts collective Love City Love thrives on the margins
by Jake Uitti
The interior of Love City Love's new space. Credit: Photo: Love City Love/ Facebook
If you look in the window of the big white building at 1823 Eastlake Avenue, you’ll see a bright red glowing LOVE sign and a sexy sleek black grand piano. Just a few months ago, this place was a failing Azteca Mexican restaurant, but when that business shuttered, Love City Love, a Seattle art collective, came in and took over, painting the building white with neon red trim.
Love City Love, the organization that started in October 2011, focuses on community and art growth in the city. They are a self-described curatorial team who facilitate “healing” through the arts. The collective, which makes use of temporary retail spaces whose prior tenants have left and whose new tenants have yet to move in, have had locations on Summit Avenue and Melrose Avenue in Seattle.
The collective hosts open mic nights, fashion shows and photoshoots — like their Untitled Woman show, which featured anti-sexim images by 10 female artists — at their current and former spaces. The open mic nights feature some of the city's best musicians, from bassist extraordinaire Evan Flory-Barnes to Adra Boo of Fly Moon Royalty and people like Hall of Fame DJ Marco Collins have counted themselves among the audience members.
On December 10th, Love City Love opened its new Eastlake location at the former Azteca, which is slated for development in spring 2015. “We have anywhere from three to six months there, depending on when they decide to break ground,” said Lucien Pellegrin, one of the collective’s community organizers. Love City Love hosts events every Wednesday from 8pm to midnight featuring open mics, live music, dance and spoken word to eclectic audiences of all ages.
The group holds these events regularly in buildings set to be redeveloped. They come in at the request of the building operator, repaint, adapt and hold performances and then, when the building’s redevelopment is set to begin, they leave and find a new place. It’s a repurposing of property that would otherwise sit stagnant and wasted.
“The first spot was acquired,” said Pellegrin, “because I slipped a hand-written note under the door of an empty space right next to the old Bauhaus on Melrose and Pine. The second spot was found by contacting Hunters Capitol and asking them about an empty space on Pike and Summit. Really, it’s about location and access to space. This whole project came from not having enough authentic creative space for the people that made this city what it is.”
Pellegrin himself grew up living in school buses and communal art homes and traveling quite a bit. “My father understood the fundamentals of communication,” he said. “Life essentially was a conversation. And from an early age, television and sugar were not really an option. I was surrounded by a lot of musicians, dancers, visual artists and activists. My father encouraged me relentlessly to create and question at all times. I guess I was just born into it.”
From this vantage point, he explained that Seattle isn’t doing enough for its creative folks despite the city’s reputation as a creative metropolis. There really isn’t enough space to hold these artist all-ages events, he said, adding, “When I look around Seattle, it’s confusing. The city wants to boast about the arts and culture, but everywhere I look the artists and taste makers are getting kicked out of their own city. How do we work together? How do we create a healthy night life alternative? Seattle has the opportunity right now to become whatever style of city it wants.”
If Love City Love has anything to say about it, the creative, collaborative vibe many in Seattle want will continue to live, if not thrive and flourish. “All I am stressing is let’s collaborate and work together,” said Pellegrin. “Lets evolve culture and create a city that is inspiring and truly cutting edge.”
Love City Love is always looking for more locations and spaces to repurpose and they have always paid required rent and security deposits, said Pellegrin. For more information, or to reach the collective, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Crosscut's arts coverage is made possible through the generous support of the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation.