The facade of 5608 Rainier Ave in 2018. Credit Black & Tan Hall
22 December 2020, Seattle, WA---
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Black & Tan Hall has purchased the historic theater building located at 5608 Rainier Avenue South. With $1,190,000 in funding from the City of Seattle’s Equitable Development Initiative (EDI), the partners have made a big step towards realizing an equitable, thriving, hyper-local economy through arts and cultural programming in Hillman City.
Black & Tan Hall aims to create a model for community-led development that places people first, building collective wealth among historically disenfranchised communities while providing good jobs and job training. Their new building will be a cultural hub that serves the entire diverse community of Rainier Valley through culturally-reflective programming, showcasing artists from BIPOC and LBGTQIA communities.
"The pandemic clearly demonstrates the value we place on spaces to convene that make us feel connected and part of a community - places where laboring people can go to relax and be joyful together," says co-founder Ben Hunter, a professional musician and music educator. Along with Tarik Abdullah, well-known local chef and youth culinary educator, and Rodney Herold, a long-time South Seattle community organizer, these three Black & Tan Hall founders envisioned a supportive and collaborative business where their passion for food, the arts, and community organizing could flourish.
EDI, administered by the Office of Planning and Community Development, was created to respond to the needs of marginalized populations, reduce disparities, and support access to opportunity in healthy, vibrant communities. The initiative addresses displacement pressures and historical lack of investment that has occurred in BIPOC communities in Seattle. EDI fosters community leadership and supports organizations to promote equitable access to jobs, education and childcare, cultural expression, outdoor space and recreation, and nutritious food, and other community needs. Funding for the investment in Black & Tan Hall comes from the sale of the City’s surplus properties at Mercer St. and Civic Square. An additional $80K of funding to support the building purchase and renovations came from the Cultural Facilities Fund of the Office of Arts & Culture. “This pandemic has revealed the structural inequity that has created unprecedented health and wealth gaps that have a staggering impact on BIPOC communities. Ensuring these communities thrive is our best investment in these uncertain economic times, and our partnership with Black & Tan Hall is one part of that effort," says Sam Assefa, director of the Seattle Office of Planning and Community Development. Black & Tan Hall has hosted local and national touring musicians, pop-up brunches around Seattle, and in 2018 hosted a local history event in partnership with MOHAI which sold out their main auditorium space. But it has been the internal work that has most transformed over their five year journey. Most of Black & Tan Hall's 33 investing partners live within one mile of the hall, and are active in anti-racism, anti-gentrification, and anti-displacement work in the community. Building that ethos into the business structure is key to creating a space that is responsive to community needs. Black & Tan Hall designed a pathway to co-owning that does not require capital to join the collective. Their Good Jobs Fellowship, which has supported a cohort of six young people to work alongside partners to implement cultural programming, does not just hone skills for future jobs in our community but places value on personal expression and identity. Karen Toering, Black & Tan Hall's general manager, has a history of developing and fundraising for community-based organizations and helped facilitate the consensus-based, BIPOC-led collective through the challenge of acquiring the building. "What we are trying to create is an equitable alternative to extractive and exploitative economic models," explains Toering. "Now that we own the building, we join a growing number of organizations in Seattle all working towards our community's collective economic liberation." Additional building upgrades and repairs are necessary before Black & Tan Hall opens its doors, targeted for 2021. In the meantime, tune into Black & Tan Hall’s annual “Hall-i-Day Party" recording. Part virtual concert, part virtual marketplace, it is an opportunity for the community to lift up small businesses and celebrate one success in counteracting the forces of gentrification in Hillman City.