Two local artists have received grants from Bellevue to perform in the Bel-Red area next year. The grants are part of the city's vision to turn the Bel-Red corridor into a vibrant arts district.

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The art will be there first, before the light-rail stations, before the office buildings and apartments and before the open streams and parks envisioned for the Bel-Red neighborhood in Bellevue.

Next summer, dancers will show up, moving gracefully among skateboarders in a dance inspired by the regulars at Highline Center Skate Plaza on Bel-Red Road. A video installation also will project images centered on the soon-to-be reclaimed Bel-Red streambeds.

The two projects are part of the city’s first, tiny steps toward turning the corridor, better known as a destination for car repair, into a flourishing arts district where artists live and work.

The Bellevue City Council approved a comprehensive plan earlier this year geared toward redeveloping Bel-Red, which will be built around proposed light-rail stations.

The council approved grants last month for arts proposals specifically targeting Bel-Red, dedicating $5,500 total to Bel-Red projects, said Mary Pat Byrne, the city’s arts specialist.

“We took a look at what artists know how to do,” Byrne said. “They know to go into an area where there’s nothing and create.”

The Pacific Northwest Ballet School has a dance center in Bel-Red, and there are some music stores and digital designers, Byrne said. But the city hopes the new, public projects will draw attention to the area as a place for art.

Aiko Kinoshita, director of Acorn Dance, has brought dancers to other Bellevue parks, where they do contemporary, improvisational pieces based on what they see and experience there.

She was drawn to the skate plaza because it imitates an urban environment with stairs and rails.

Kinoshita said she sees similarity in energy and movement between dancers and skateboarders. And the Bellevue resident is excited about the city’s vision.

“I’m really interested in seeing more things happen over here in dance,” she said. “The community is really ready for it. There’s a lot of potential here as the city grows its art base.”

Kinoshita is planning a performance piece in which the dancers and skateboarders switch roles in the plaza. She has budgeted for elbow and knee pads for her dancers for skateboarding and plans to ask the skateboarders to do some dance.

All rehearsals and the dance itself will be at the plaza and free and open to the public.

“The idea is not to get the regular dance audience to see us, but to surprise people with the movement and dance performance in their daily spaces where they don’t expect it, to hopefully attract a new audience and hopefully shift their perspective,” Kinoshita said.

Multimedia artist Tomiko Jones, of Seattle, also was interested in the proposed Bel-Red development when she applied for the grant. Her installation will use video, audio and either constructed sculptural screens or existing buildings as a screen and focus on a reclaimed streambed. Jones wrote in an e-mail that she believes a public installation will engage more people and reach a broader audience.

“It points to ways that we can use spaces emptied by a drop in production or the economic downturn into an opportunity to bring art in to the public sphere,” she said.

Nicole Tsong: 206-464-2150 or