Arts groups open new home at Seattle’s King Street Station


For much of the past decade, Totem Star has helped thousands of young artists develop their music from a 225 square foot recording studio in West Seattle. Today, as part of a major upgrade, the nonprofit opened a 2,000 square foot facility, this time in the heart of the city.

Totem Star is one of five organizations to house the 11,100 square foot second floor of the historic King Street Station in Pioneer Square. Called Station Space, the project will provide space for cultural organizations, many of which are youth-focused. Other partner organizations are Red Eagle Soaring, The Rhapsody Project, Jackson Street Music Program, Whipsmart (a trade association and partner of Washington Filmworks) and the Cultural Space Agency, the public development authority that brings the project together. The kickoff took place on Thursday.

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Station Space is the second arts and culture hub to move to King Street Station, the first being the Office of Arts and Culture (ARTS) in 2019. ARTS’ use of the third floor includes gallery space and a community “living room”. open to the public to meet. The city of Seattle purchased the property in 2008 and renovated it in 2013, but for many years these floors sat empty.

Daniel Pak, executive director of Totem Star, said he hopes the Station Space project will kick-start the artistic and cultural use of empty buildings in downtown Seattle.

“Being able to partner with the city, the Agence de l’Espace Culturel and all the other arts organizations that will be there is a proof of concept that we can and will do better for arts and culture,” did he declare.

Matthew Richter, acting executive director of the Cultural Space Agency, said Station Space is still raising funds for construction, but so far it has raised $2.3 million of $3.5 million, some of the largest donations come from Historic South Downtown, a state-established community preservation agency; King County 4Culture Office; and the Vadon Foundation, which funds programs in support of indigenous communities. Construction is expected to begin around the new year, he said, and a current schedule for the project — designed by SKL architects of Seattle and built by Sellen Construction — puts the ribbon cutting at late spring 2023.

The Cultural Space Agency will lease the space from the city, and the other organizations in the station space will essentially sublet to the agency. The lease agreement is not yet final, but Richter said the plan is to include Station Space’s right to lease the space for the next 60 years.

No one, however, will pay rent, since the city will lease the space rent-free in exchange for the community benefits and capital investment Station Space brings to the property, Richter said.

In 2010, musicians Pak and Thaddeus Turner founded Totem Star, a youth-focused record label and music education program rolled into one. Totem Star serves over 300 students each year, including 4,800 over the past 12 years. Many of these students, Pak said, live too far away for a recording studio in West Seattle to be a regularly feasible destination.

“We’re tired of seeing tiny cultural spaces popping up on the outskirts of the city, almost outside Seattle’s footprint. We are tired of seeing our young people take three buses, two hours each way, just to get to our studio,” he said.

When the Totem Star board began discussing a move to some sort of larger, more accessible space in 2018, then-ARTS director Randy Engstrom suggested King Street Station . Later that year, Richter invited Red Eagle Soaring, a nonprofit performing arts organization for Indigenous youth, to join the project, before also inviting The Rhapsody Project, a nonprofit organization. lucrative for music education, in 2019. Station Space will be the first creative space dedicated to Red Eagle Soaring. and The Rhapsody Project, which are currently borrowing space from other organizations.

Station Space will include, among other things, rehearsal and performance spaces, a Totem Star recording studio, a Red Eagle Soaring black box theater and The Rhapsody Project’s instrument workshop and instrument library, as well general gathering spaces available to the community.

“Our students have needed a space like this for a very long time,” said Joe Seamons, who co-founded The Rhapsody Project in 2013. “We can’t quite express our excitement for what this will do for our culture. and our community, and so we are truly honored to be part of this project.

With the motto “keeping kids off the streets, in the studio and on stage since 2010”, Totem Star focuses on the fight against displacement, both for the arts and for young people in Seattle. Pak’s three focal points are the people, the program, and the place — place being tough in a city as expensive as Seattle. After all, only 6% of Seattle’s arts and culture spaces are owned by communities of color, Pak said, citing an internal analysis by ARTS in 2015.

“We have great programs, but it can only thrive when there’s a space,” he said. “The whole point of this project is to give a place to artists in this city which is growing so quickly. It is very simple. That’s what it’s about. It’s about giving artists a home.


This cover is partially underwritten by the MJ Murdock Charitable Trust. The Seattle Times maintains editorial control over this and all of its coverage.


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