I intended to write an article about my favorite art spots in Seattle — music venues, galleries, bookshops, and theaters. As I made a list of places I frequent, I noticed a common thread: many of them were completely volunteer-run, or at least heavily reliant on volunteers. Art should be a community endeavor, and the fact that many art institutions in this city trust that community members will support them with their time and labor shows how valued they are.

The Vera Project

I took a great seminar on Pacific Northwest music history during my freshman year which I would highly recommend. In that class, we learned about the Teen Dance Ordinance, a wild law that was in place from 1985 until 2002. This provision put in place strict rules for safety precautions for any “dances” (this vague term includes concerts) that youth would attend, making it near-impossible for any big venues to accommodate underage patrons.

This law influenced our music scene’s development, inspiring all-ages venues to open — hence the Vera Project. This is an affordable venue for kids of all ages to see indie bands and take classes in sound production, screen printing, and stage design, among other things. If you don’t have time to catch a show, at least check out their art gallery which usually features projects by local artists.


While you’re checking out Vera, another musical space for tourists and Seattle natives alike is the KEXP Gathering Space, next door to Vera. KEXP moved into the Seattle Center in 2015 and opened to the public the following year. The radio station is a local institution; it’s curated, independent, and innovative, not to mention that the community that it’s founded on is far-reaching and strong. You can see the DJ booth and hear broadcasts from the space, which includes a cafe, a gallery, and a small record store.

The Compline Choir at St. Mark’s Cathedral

If art music is more your thing, don’t worry — Seattle has many venues for classical music, too. As an admittedly novice art music appreciator, my favorite spot is St. Mark’s Cathedral  on Capitol Hill for Compline Choir concerts. The choir is made up of “laypersons with diverse beliefs,” their website states, who donate their time to put on these free weekly performances. The genre of medieval choral music and the religious setting may be intimidating, but those who attend Compline come from all beliefs (or lack thereof), and the setting is casual; many people bring blankets and lie on the ground during the concert. Remember to be quiet and respectful of the space, and if you’re like me, enjoy the service as a meditative time on Sundays at 9:30 p.m.

Hugo House

Literature is art too! Hugo House is a great site for readings, classes, and more. Named after UW alum and poet, Richard Hugo, this space was founded by three Seattle writers who wanted to create a haven for writers and readers. Hugo House has a strong base of volunteers for support, but they also offer internships. Big names and up-and-coming local writers frequent the Hugo House space, now located in Capitol Hill.

The Annex Theatre

Also located in Capitol Hill is the Annex Theatre which debuts eight world-premiere plays a year by contemporary, local playwrights. Theaters like the Annex that prioritize their own communities help to keep the genre of theater current and innovative. They also host two monthly variety shows which are warm and welcoming with dedicated regular audiences.

The Grand Illusion Cinema

Only five blocks from campus is the Grand Illusion Cinema, a campus favorite with student tickets for only $7. The theater shows unique independent films that you’re unlikely to find anywhere else. They are a completely volunteer-run, non-profit venue. Grand Illusion has been a part of Seattle since 1968, the oldest arthouse cinema in the city. After almost closing in the late 1990s, Northwest Film Forum (another largely volunteer-based arts group in the area) revived the theater and remodelled it.

Reach Special Sections Co-Editor Alyson Podesta at specials@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @alyson_podesta

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