After writing several posts last December about the impacts and implications of the Oakland fire on the Seattle arts scene —it was certainly dramatic and political and sad—I ended up doing my final feature story for the magazine on the issue.
The article for the February issue, “Are High Rents Putting Artists in Danger?,” focused on subterranean art spaces, faulty wiring, rising rents, and the transgressive recommendation from Seattle’s DIY arts community.
The article concluded:
In the letter to the mayor, the artists who attended Andrea Friedman’s emergency meeting back in December helped put forward a set of bold recommendations. In addition to spelling out the economic context of skyrocketing rents, they made a transgressive suggestion: Don’t crack down on clubs for safety violations.
“Adversarial enforcement merely punishes our communities for their financial inability to improve code compliance,” the artists reasoned, saying, rather than increasing compliance, enforcement “drives people further underground and further away from our shared goal of improving safety.”
Drawing an analogy to Good Samaritan laws that encourage people to report drug overdoses without fear of arrest, the statement noted that by “empowering venues to become safer incrementally without fear or recrimination” rather than levying fines and delivering eviction notices, the City “could save lives…even if it means,” as artists like to do, “breaking other rules.”
“The idea of having a relationship with the City could be incredibly helpful for many groups,” says Ruiz, the warehouse DJ and an attendee of Friedman’s artists meeting. “It could create more of a culture of facilitation where arts groups could get the help they need to not needlessly put themselves in danger.”