The Center on Contemporary Art’s Storefronts UN(contained) residency for artists of color sets up on Lower Queen Anne construction site.

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Construction sites — and the boxy shipping containers that rest there — hold a certain fascination. They suggest spaces in flux, projects in progress, things unseen or yet to be. They can also suggest loss of history and lack of access, particularly for Seattle with our concerns about development and affordability.

A new artist-residency program, on a highly desirable and somewhat contentious empty lot across from Seattle Center and McCaw Hall, welcomes conversation about these issues and more.

One of the hopes is that “the art produced by our artists in residence will move conscious bystanders toward taking tangible action for social causes,” said Andrea Lim, project manager for Storefronts UN[contained].

Artist Reception

Storefronts UN[contained]

A new artist residency program from CoCA (Center on Contemporary Art). Oct. 21, 11:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m., 3rd Ave. N. between Mercer and Roy Street, Seattle; free (

To create these residencies for socially engaged artists of color, the Center on Contemporary Art (CoCA) has partnered with Shunpike (an organization that supports artists in Washington state), the Uptown Arts and Culture Committee (UACC), developer Barrientos RYAN and lot owner 225 Roy LLC.

For now, the large lot is empty save for three shipping containers that were delivered to the site in August. Over the course of one- to two-month residencies, 12 artists will use the 8’ x 20’ containers in any way they see fit: as exhibition galleries, work spaces or simply as places to hold open houses for community dialogue.

The residency program is named Storefronts UN[contained] as a nod to Shunpike’s successful Storefronts project, which transforms empty store windows into art installations.

The first three UN[contained] residencies went to Anastacia Renee Tolbert, a writer, performance artist and activist who is the current Civic Poet of Seattle; Anissa Amalia, a young installation artist, DJ and filmmaker whose work often revolves around her identity as a bilingual Southeast Asian woman; and Edward Raub, a Makah tribal member who carves Northwest Indian art using traditional tools and forms.

“Programs like this are revolutionary and are needed for queer women of color and people of color in general. The art world tends to cater to a certain type of art/artist and systemically, POCs have been neglected, negated and erased. The UN[contained] project seems to be an avenue for artistic allyship and support,” Tolbert said.

Tolbert describes her UN[contained] installation, which was curated by Rezina Habtemariam, as “a visual and literary response to gentrification, appropriation and the multilayered and systemic death of the black woman.”

For Raub, who is vocal about prejudice toward Native Americans and his six years of homelessness, the residency has provided a vehicle for “interaction with the community,” and he has already met new collaborators and buyers. His art and his determination to practice it are “all about my culture and keeping it alive,” he said.

According to CoCA and Barrientos RYAN, the goal of the collaboration is to “activate the site” before construction of a mixed-use project that will hold approximately 290 apartments and 9,000 square feet of ground-level retail/restaurant space. Maria Barrientos, principal of Barrientos RYAN, says the company “couldn’t be more excited about this program and its benefits to the artists and the community.”

The site is the one that sparked debates this year when Teatro ZinZanni, the popular circus-cabaret-dining venue, was denied another extension of its lease beyond March 15, 2017. The leaseholder, Seattle Opera, had been given the land with the understanding that it would sell it at fair market value to support operations and programming. Seattle Opera sold the site to 225 Roy LLC and is using proceeds to revamp the nearby Mercer Arena for administrative and production needs. Teatro ZinZanni has since relocated to Marymoor Park in Redmond.

After the development is complete, 225 Roy LLC plans to continue its relationships with CoCA, Shunpike and the UACC, Barrientos says, “including looking for ways to continue partnering together to showcase or curate great artwork within and around the project, as well as furthering a strong commitment to the neighborhood.” She’s also enthusiastic about Uptown’s new designation by the City of Seattle as an Arts + Culture District.

For now, before the start of construction in spring 2018, the mostly empty lot hosts UN[contained]’s three modest shipping containers that are lined up together, facing 3rd Avenue North. For the periodic UN[contained] open houses, the container doors swing open and the construction fencing folds back, welcoming the public to engage in dialogue with the artists and their art.