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Black Arts Legacies: Curators Creating Space

Curators Creating Space

Two curators separated by decades turn homes into galleries to support artists.

Theater and Building Community

Throughout the massive shifts that Seattle’s Black population has experienced — from the huge influx of Black people in search of opportunity in the 1930s and ’40s to the steady decline of the in-city Black population in the 1990s — Black presence has been emphasized in theater groups like the Negro Repertory Company, Black Arts/West, The Hansberry Project and the CD Forum. Douglas Quinton Barnett and Sharon Nyree Williams represent the history and future of Black theater in Seattle — and in the historically Black Central District neighborhood in particular.

Music and Family

Dave Lewis was a talented keyboardist and key player in the Pacific Northwest’s booming rhythm and blues scene of the 1950s and ’60s — a scene that eventually evolved into Seattle’s iconic take on rock ’n’ roll. Zoom forward to the 21st century, and The Black Tones, led by twins Eva and Cedric Walker, are a genre-busting rock band taking Seattle by storm. The band’s punk rock take on rhythm and blues carries the history of the Northwest Sound forward with traces of Dave Lewis and his band’s hodgepodge of rock and soul.

Visual Arts and Vibrancy

On Union Street in Seattle’s historically Black Central District, two buildings speak to each other through proximity, history and art. On the north side is an affordable housing development with a facade designed by Al Doggett featuring a dancer, a saxophone player and a raised fist. Across the street is an apartment complex with a color-splashed exterior created by Seattle artist Barry Johnson, who says he drew inspiration from jazz and the rich palette of painter Jacob Lawrence. Both artists are using their skills to commemorate the history of Black art in Seattle, while at the same time making a permanent mark on the evolving cityscape.