On a mild but brisk Thursday afternoon, dozens gathered outside King Street Station to announce the launch of the Station Space campaign. The soon-to-be-built 10,000-square-foot “creative youth empowerment lab” is another project supported by the Cultural Space Agency, the city’s cultural real estate development agency. This station space will occupy the previously empty second floor of King Street Station and will serve as a home base for local arts and culture organizations focused on youth development.
Nestled between Amtrak on the ground floor and the Department of Arts and Culture upstairs, it’s been almost 60 years since the second floor was open to the public. Now sharing the space are six organizations serving primarily black and brown youth: Totem Star, Red Eagle Soaring, Wh!psmart, The Rhapsody Project and the Jackson Street Music Program. For many of these organizations, Station Space will provide much-needed stability and a central location, making it more accessible to youth in the region.
“This space represents our first creative home we will have in our 32-year history,” said Russell Brooks, executive director of Red Eagle Soaring, which serves at-risk local youth through theater and the performing arts, at the event. “Once we pull this project off, it’s just the beginning. We want to be here in another 30 or 40 years. And we will be here.”
The space is a direct result of discussions between the city and community members about how best to benefit Seattle’s ~creative economy~. Cultural Space Agency director Matthew Richter said in a recent phone interview that Station Space aims to address three niches of the creative sector: the crowding out of cultural spaces, pervasive racial inequality, and a complete move away from youth arts programs.
“We talk so much about business as a leader, but the creative industries are explicitly missing rungs on their ladder,” Richter said over the phone. “This is a project trying to fill in some of those rungs.”
The station space, which is accessible at ground level, is divided according to the needs of each organization. Red Eagle Soaring will have a black box theater equipped with a lighting system and gathering areas. The Jackson Street Music Program and The Rhapsody Project, both focused on delivering music workshops and other cultural learning programs, now have a home base to host concerts, jam sessions, and discussion groups for children in their organizations. Wh!psmart, a nationwide organization that helps creatives with the business side of their work, plans to use their space for remote programming.
Taking up most of the floor is Totem Star, an organization focused on connecting youth with music mentorship. Started in 2010 by musicians Daniel Pak and Thaddeus Turner, the organization has worked with over 3,000 young musicians since settling in their (tiny) 225-square-foot recording studio at the Youngstown Cultural Center. But at Station Space, Totem Star will have over 1,600 square feet to play, including isolated recording studios, practice and performance spaces, and more space for mixing and mastering songs on equipment donated by Sir Mix-a-Lot.
“As an artist, on a technical level, [instead] Since we have to work so hard to make the space work, we now have a space that works for us,” said Mirabai Kukathas, a 20-year-old (almost 21, she says) singer/songwriter who has been a Totem star since her Age 15 member of the community and now works as a fundraising development manager: “Now we can spend more time working on the music and the community, doing good and having fun.”
The Cultural Space Agency has raised $2.3 million in donations from local private and corporate donors, 4Culture and Historic South Downtown. To complete everything needed for the space, they need to raise another $1.2 million. They plan to break ground in January 2023 and officially open Station Space in the spring of the same year.