On January 10th, the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture presented a briefing to the Seattle City Council Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development, and Arts Committee on a summary of its work with respect to the Cultural Space Inventory and a metric the Office calls a “Cultural Stability Index”. As described in committee by Matthew Richter, the Cultural Space Liaison from the Office of Arts & Culture, a cultural space is defined as not only the traditionally thought of galleries, museums, and theaters – but also the cultural centers, art supply stores, record shops and other institutions supporting or promoting the arts as well.
Since 2013, a total of 862 cultural spaces have been cataloged, representing approximately 11 million square feet of cultural space in total. This “Cultural Space Inventory” is captured in publicly available datasets (data.seattle.gov) and has been represented in a heat map which shows the concentration of cultural spaces within a given geographical area. By no surprise, Downtown, Lower Queen Anne, Capitol Hill, and the University District represent the most significant concentrations in the city as captured in the space inventory.
In addition to cataloging these spaces, the Office of Arts & Culture has also been soliciting survey responses from each cultural center, covering topics from ownership vs. rental status of the space, whether alcohol is sold in the space, majority constituency race to a self-ranked “stability index” for the space itself. In particular, the “Stability Index”, a 1 to 5 ranking developed by the efforts of this project, asks the respondents to identify how likely they feel they’ll be able to stay in their current space. While non-quantitative, this data when combined with other survey responses such as alcohol sales or constituency race, provides a tool for assessing the health of cultural centers within Seattle.
From the current pool of respondents, a few noticeable traits are visible in the results of the stability index question when combined with other survey response categories. Venues that sell alcohol, as well as those which are For-Profit, scored noticeably lower than those which do not or are Nonprofit, respectively. Spaces which identified their primary (greater than 50%) race constituency as White, Latino, or Asian identified as feeling significantly more stable than those identifying as African American or Native American, which scored lowest. In terms of the types of space use, those reporting as being multi-disciplinary ranked the highest in their feeling of stability, while Literary spaces ranked lower than Theater or Visual Arts.
Going forward, the Cultural Space Inventory will continue to be refined, including working to reach more of the potential respondent pool with only half of the identified cultural spaces currently responding to the survey at all. In addition, new data sharing tools are under development which will allow better access and interaction with the dataset in the future as well as cooperating with organizations in King County to build an expanded dataset.