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Seattle artists to city: Work with us, don't shut down our spaces

After 36 people died in an Oakland, California warehouse fire in December, artists in Seattle want to prevent that kind of tragedy here. To do so, they are asking city officials for help.

Seattle has several "underground" or "DIY" arts spaces similar to the Ghost Ship warehouse in Oakland. They're often not permitted or code compliant. As the cost of real estate goes up in Seattle, those spaces play a crucial role for artists trying find places to live and work.

S. Surface is a curator and member of the Seattle Arts Commission. Surface said other cities have started shutting down underground venues and they are hoping Seattle can take a different path.

Surface: "And so we wanted to come up with a set of recommendations to support the venues, to communicate to our community at large that we are behind them."

Surface briefed the City Council on those recommendations Tuesday.

Arts organizers want the fire department to do more to help underground venues become code-compliant and to use more discretion before shutting venues down. Another recommendation: Make underground venues eligible for certain city grants that are currently only available to nonprofits.

In addition, they want the city to analyze how shutting down venues would disproportionately affect people of color, youth, and the LGBTQ community.

The recommendations could require policy changes at the city level. Mayor Ed Murray said he has directed his staff to review the recommendations.

Surface said meanwhile artists are also trying to be proactive. They have started holding workshops on safety and how to raise money for things like sprinkler systems.

Paige Browning can be reached at or @paigebpaige_.