Bringing more art into the neighborhood: Northgate to convene first arts council meeting Tuesday

North Seattle residents will get a chance to participate in a new project to develop art in and around Northgate when the Northgate Neighborhood Arts Council holds its inaugural meeting next Tuesday, Nov. 30.

The meeting - which will take place in the Bank of America conference room at the corner of Northeast 125th Street and 29th Avenue Northeast - will be the first major step by North Seattle residents and artists toward the creation of an arts council.

"The ultimate goal is to get more art in the neighborhood," said Lorna Mrachek, a member of the new council. "The things that are going to be basic to it is to support local and emerging artists in the area."

Enhancing community identity

The plan to create an arts council came out of a Seattle City Council resolution put together last year to address the development of the Northgate area. The formation of an arts council, along with the Northgate Urban Center stakeholders group, was recommended as a way to give various community groups the ability to advise in matters dealing with the development of the city's urban center.

In addition, the arts council will serve the areas within the Northgate Comprehensive Plan, including Maple Leaf, Pinehurst, Victory Heights, Haller Lake and Meadowbrook neighborhoods.

Tuesday's meeting will offer artists and community members an opportunity to define what they want the council to do. While the council has a general mission to enhance the community identity through arts and culture, the meeting will help to further define the scope of the group's role in the community.

Specific ideas for projects, as well as issues such as what kind of art the council will fund, will be discussed at the meeting.

Arts council goals

The council has already indicated that it will work with business leaders, artists and neighborhood groups to bring public art to the community. One goal is to work with new businesses and developers to create a cohesive and cultured feel to the area, said Mrachek.

Instead of structures that clash with their surroundings, the council hopes to encourage landscaping and construction that is visually attractive and pedestrian friendly.

This will also include commissioning local artists to contribute artwork, as well as working to support emerging artists.

One idea mentioned by Mrachek would be to give a chunk of money to each community in Northgate to be used for pieces of art that would add to or distinguish each area. These could include anything from murals and sculptures to nicer-looking signs welcoming people to the community.

Although the city recommended creating the arts council, it will depend on outside sources to fund projects. While some money will likely come from various grants, the council will depend mainly on fund raising and donations, Mrachek said.

"The first thing we're going to do is start two committees," she said. One will be devoted to fund raising while the other will focus primarily on bylaws and researching how other art councils function.

Taking shape

Even though the council has yet to meet, the group is beginning to take shape. Benson Shaw, a local artist, was recently selected as the artist-in-residence for the council.

Other local artists and community leaders, as well as faculty from North Seattle Community College, have expressed a desire to get involved.

"I'm hoping that we'll get 30 to 40 people who will participate," Mrachek said. "We've got to get a bunch of people together and start emerging."

Although the Northgate Neighborhood Arts Council was formed primarily to act as a guide to aid new development and infuse some culture into the community, the group intends to carry on past any short-term building boom.

"We're hoping this will be long-term," Mrachek said, "that it will endure."

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