Hiawatha Artists Lofts

Since its beginnings in Minneapolis in 1979, Artspace Projects, Inc. has created affordable live/work spaces for artists around the country. In October 2007, Artspace began accepting applications for its second Artist Loft community in Seattle. The first Seattle-based Artspace Community was the Tashiro Kaplan Artists Lofts in Pioneer Square, and the newest community is the Hiawatha Artists Loft in the Jackson Place neighborhood located in the Central District.

I learned about the Hiawatha Artists Loft project shortly after being contacted by freelance writer Diana Wurn about the research and writing I’d done in support of the Seattle EcoUrban Village project. Even though Diana’s story never materialized (such is the fate of a freelance writer), it got me thinking about affordable housing again. And as fate would have it, the universe aligned and delivered Hiawatha. Since it’s far better to join a great movement than to try to build one from scratch, I decided to put the SEV project to rest.

I’m working as a full-time artist now, and my art habit is supported by a great day job that keeps me on my toes yet leaves me energized for a weekend of artmaking.

So this is the end of the Seattle EcoUrban Village project, but it’s the beginning of new things for me. I’m keeping this blog active for others who are on the journey of building intentional community. I hope that these SEV files will provide a source of inspiration and information.

Happy trails to you, until we meet again.

~ Alexis Pierre-Louis


Starting Over

Affordable green housingLast June, Seattle EcoUrban Village went on hiatus to explore the possibility of forming a nonprofit with two other grassroots organizations. After careful examination, we realized that our core goals varied enough to prevent a successful merger, but we still support each other through information sharing. So where does that leave us?

Seattle EcoUrban Village (SEV) project is in the midst of growing pains. Change is seldom easy but usually both necessary and beneficial. The SEV project still maintains a large email list of virtual supporters, and is in need of actual, physical support in the form of visionaries, organizational development planners, activists, grantwriters, and other general volunteer support.

In light of the lessons learned these past few months, let me tell you who I am, where we are, and where I hope we’ll go. My name is Alexis Pierre-Louis. I’m an interdisciplinary artist (a jewelry artist, painter, sculptor, and writer), and I am the founder of SEV. I organized SEV because I am tired of and fed up with the lack of safe, affordable, green housing and the lack of affordable organic food in my city. The way I see it: a lot of good organizations got started by tired and fed up people, so I feel confident that I’m on the right track.

My work as an interdisciplinary artist is informed by a philosophical framework that includes urban permaculture, futurist theory, Womanist studies, and the fine arts. I’ve been privileged to live abroad (Germany and Japan) and in most states in the U.S.A. I am a graduate of The Evergreen State College in Olympia Washington; I moved to Seattle about four years ago, and formally began my art practice this year.

I have mostly lived in small- to mid-sized towns, IGarfield High School now live in a mid-sized city, and I’m very concerned about the combination of economic disadvantage, environmental racism, and lack of environmental education, particularly in communities of color. I live in a community where there is a large number of people of color and poor people. Although Seattle is renowned for its commitment to environmental issues, I have too often been told that my urban permaculture ideas won’t work in the Central District and Seattle’s other economically disadvantaged neighborhoods because poor people want jobs not green housing and organic food. I believe all of the above are both desired and possible.

Now, after months of talking with local nonprofits, agencies, real estate specialists, and citizens, I realize that SEV’s focus needs to be on environmental education. So, it may take a very long time for the first SEV building to manifest, but it will happen because this idea is like a river: it may change course, but it won’t stop flowing. And like Sam Cooke originally sang, and like Midwest City sings today: A Change is Gonna Come.


(image credit: Garfield High School, Garfield High School Foundation)

Over the past few weeks, SEV had been in talks with two local grassroots about the possibility of merging our efforts into one nonprofit. What we learned along the way is that each of our groups had generated significant public interest, had established solid e-mail lists, and had members whose attendance at actual meetings was sporadic to nonexistent. Building a coalition is a daunting task that requires a singleness of vision and effort, and the degree to which a coalition lacks these qualities will be reflected in terms of solidarity and efficacy. We had much respect for the vision and goals of our potential partners, but ultimately, we decided to pursue different opportunities.

When a group or an individual has a vision that will benefit society, natural exuberance abounds, but the key to long-term success Continue Reading »

The past few weeks have been a blur of activity as SEV has established its presence in a wide variety of collaborative sustainability networks both online and in person. These efforts produced a deluge of e-mails and phone calls, and we’re slowly building our network. This week, SEV outreached to government and business leaders while continuing to seek out volunteer opportunities with like minded grassroots and established sustainability groups. Our lead organizer has been appointed state coordinator for a university-based art project, and hopes to introduce a cadre of fine artists to the fold.

This week

  • meeting with real estate agent/community activist to discuss possible SEV sites
  • meeting with DenCity Research/SUMIT to discuss collaboration
  • meeting with Sustainable Seattle to discuss collaboration
  • meeting with City of Seattle Neighborhood Service Center rep to discuss local resources

After the week of meetings SEV will regroup to discuss organizing our first public meeting. Stay tuned…

Can a tiny, little grassroots initiative change the world? We think we can! The Seattle EcoUrban Village (SEV) formed in a moment of frustration (as do many great inventions). Constantly denied affordable housing rentals because of graduate student status, yet needing affordable housing because of the same, SEV looked around for a better way and found intentional community then cooperative home ownership.

We feel the cooperative housing model is the best opportunity for artists, students, single mothers, the working poor, and others to obtain affordable home ownership. Recently, in connecting with friends and consultants, we began to examine existing artist housing models (like ArtSpace) to inquire, is the renter-landlord model the best housing model for artists or is it contributing to neighborhood gentrification?

SEV also connected with Alec Hill of the Tree of Life Collective, a bioregional workers’ collective in Central Vermont dedicated to transforming human systems of food production, ecological sustainability, dissipating traditional economy, and making more time for celebrating life!

As our ad hoc consultant, Alec recently gifted SEV with these consideration: Continue Reading »

The Tree of Life Collective (TLC) is a nonprofit workers collective of artists in Montpelier, VT that works to “create social change around the principles of bioregionalism, social ecology, and spiritual resonance with the Earth”. TLC is offering a opportunity to learn jewelry making techniques in titanium, a reactive metal that changes color when anodized. The intern will also have an opportunity to make a liveable income in a non-hierarchical environment and contribute to social projects. For more information, read the Tree of Life Artist Internship flyer then contact contact TLC.

The Dreamtime Festival is a collaborative festival in Paonia, Colorado that combines the educational aspects of a conference and tradeshow with the celebratory aspects of music, dance, theatre, film and and visual art. With live performances by world-class bands, workshops on themes of sustainability, personal development, individual and social responsibility, holistic healing and gift economy, participants in Dreamtime Festival “dream the future together, and create a magical and unforgettable experience that serves ourselves and the world.”

The festival runs July 19-22, 2007 and tickets can be purchased through the Dreamtime website. To learn more visit the Dreamthefuture tribe.