Yakima arts organizations seek to form creative district to support downtown development | local

From public art and sculptures set back from Yakima Avenue to local artisanal businesses, downtown Yakima is a hub for creativity.

Some local arts leaders want to cultivate this further, creating a walkable area full of artistic and cultural activities called the creative district.

The Yakima Arts Commission is leading the effort, holding community meetings and seeking input from residents and business owners as it crafts the formal application, which goes to the state arts commission.

Heath Lambe, local commission member and curator of the Yakima Valley Museum, wants you to imagine this the next time you spend an afternoon or evening in our downtown: a busker serenading walkers with sweet notes , an outdoor painter capturing precious moments. and portraits, or a vibrant neon alley that lights up the night.

All are potential activities or exhibits that could be included in the district plan.

“Also, as you walk downtown, we have a variety of activities and you get excited about going downtown,” Lambe said.

Here’s what you need to know about creative districts and what they might look like in Yakima:

FILE – Kiara Castro, an artist working at the Yakima Maker Space, glazes a bowl at her workstation Monday, March 7, 2022, in Yakima, Wash.

What is a creative district?

Washington State’s Creative District program is a way to recognize and formalize areas of creative, cultural and economic activity.

Creative districts are walkable areas certified by the state’s arts commission, ArtWA, as places where people enjoy the arts and culture of the community, according to the commission’s website.

The districts must be in a contiguous geographical area, passable, have a clearly defined concentration of artistic and cultural activities and a clearly defined brand. They must also be formally recognized by the local government.

ArtsWA certified its first creative district in 2018, and there are 11 certified creative districts across Washington: City of Edmonds, Chewelah, Olympia, Langley, Twisp, Port Townsend, Tenino, Issaquah, Rainier Valley, Bainbridge Island and South Columbia in Kennewick .


FILE – The front of SEWN is shown Wednesday, June 9, 2021, in Yakima, Wash.

Why a creative district?

Lambe said the possibility of a creative district in Yakima was first raised before the pandemic, but the Yakima Arts Commission and its partners are taking a fresh look at the idea.

“We have a roadmap here that seems to be working in other cities that I think we can leverage to make our downtown as great as it can be,” he said.

According to Lambe, the benefits include the redevelopment of community assets in the city center, increased tourism and improved livability.

“I mean, there’s a lot going on already. This just allows the city to set up a framework where we can put it under an umbrella and market it statewide and then really start using it as a way to ( improve) Yakima tourism,” he said.

Along similar lines, Yakima Art Commission Chairman and Larson Gallery Director David Lynx said the district could lead to increased tourism and local dollars that support local creative industries.

“This is very good for the future of Yakima,” Lynx said. “It helps us grow.”

He said it could also encourage the development of underutilized spaces downtown, and possibly the creation of artist lofts or live/work housing.

Creative districts receive a grant equivalent of $5,000 upon certification, and participation in the program opens the district to opportunities. Lambe said it includes up to $45,000 for a capital project.

Cellers AntoLin

FILE — Jessica McCay paints with her daughter Alyssa McCay, left, during a Paint Nite Yakima class at AntoLin Cellars on Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018, in Yakima, Wash.

the map

The working map for a Yakima creative district stretches from East Lincoln Avenue to east of Spruce Street and from Fourth Avenue to Eighth Street.

It includes a range of businesses and art/event spaces, from the Yakima Maker Space to Essencia.

“It’s not just art. It’s anything creative,” Lynx said.

ArtsWA recognizes around 85 different creative industries and around 80 different occupations that can be included.

Some creative businesses located within the proposed district include Capitol Theatre, Fourth Street Theatre, The Seasons Performance Hall, Yakima Maker Space, Leading Force Energy and Design, Collaboration Coffee, Ron’s Coins and Collectables, Orion Theatre, Northtown Coffee, Essencia, Single Hill , Kana Winder, AntoLin Cellars, EZ Tiger, Crafted, Sewn and The Tap.

Lambe said the map is not set in stone and is open to input and feedback.

“When we initially put it together, we made sure it had all of our public artwork that we have downtown within that contiguous map, as well as some of the major arts industries that we have,” he said.

The map also includes Art in the Park, Windows Alive and event spaces, such as the market being built in what was the grassy central area of ​​the Yakima Valley Memorial Commercial Services parking lot along the ‘Yakima Ave.

Lynx later said there may also be ways to incorporate other creative industries not in the initial contiguous area, such as the Larson Gallery or the Yakima Valley Museum.

Collaboration coffee

FILE — Works by local artists are displayed at Collaboration Coffee on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020, in Yakima, Washington.

The process of

As Lambe and other leaders gather feedback from community members, they are also preparing a formal application, budget and strategic plan for the district.

Creative districts must have an annual budget of $20,000, according to ArtWA’s website.

The city has not earmarked money for the project, and Lynx said the plan is to solicit donations from local businesses and organizations.

The strategic plan will look at the development and activities planned for the first three to five years in the district.

Lambe said the plan also needs to align with the city’s plan for downtown, which is now in the works.

Next steps also include a state commission site visit to review the district and its boundaries.

Lambe said he expects those steps to be completed this year.

The city took a step to support the formation of a creative district in June, but will have to sign off on the idea again before the district can be certified. Lambe said the city will also need to provide someone to act as a staff liaison.

If the district is certified, Lambe said it will initially be overseen by the Yakima Arts Commission before transitioning to being run by a nonprofit organization.

He said that model is preferred, and has been used in other communities, because it opens up other grant opportunities for which the city might not qualify.

“It starts with the city,” he said. “We put it into motion. We give it some legs, and then we give it to a nonprofit to manage and run it and just make it better.”

Rum coin and collectibles

FILE: Ray Yount, left, Erica Parker, center left, James Hatfield, back right, and Avery Hatfield play a game of Magic: The Gathering on Friday, April 12, 2019, at Ron’s Coin and Collectables in Yakima, Wash.

Community involvement

The discussion about revitalizing downtown Yakima may remind some of the plan for a plaza, which was killed by voters in 2018.

Lambe said the creative district is different from this project.

“The biggest problem with that square, as I understand it, was the lack of parking. That doesn’t affect that,” he said. “This is a way to focus on arts and culture in our downtown to make it a destination point.”

But the memories of that project are part of the reason the group spends time listening to community members early in the planning process. Lambe said he wants the district to come from the community, not top-down.

“The key here is to get the community involved at the forefront of this to make sure it meets everyone’s expectations so we don’t have the same problem,” Lambe said.

Lambe said she has a few ideas for projects that could be included in the district’s strategic plan — a sculpture garden, a neon alley or Tieton Mosaic artwork, to name a few — but she wants hear from community members about what they want. An important part of that is listening to Latino communities and neighbors in the Yakama Nation, he said.

“The more participation we get from our community, the better off we’ll be,” he said.

Lambe and Lynx have set up a website and Facebook page with information about the potential district, and people can reach out with questions or concerns by emailing [email protected]

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