I’ve only been a stalker once in my life.
I move to Seattle in early 2020 in The Before Times. Forbidden from making art in my new temporary home, I must find an art studio fast.
All the big tech companies in Seattle, like Amazon and Microsoft, gobble up real estate, sending prices soaring.
Google Maps shows me the way to The Good Arts Building, home of the art studios of ‘57 Biscayne. It’s one of the most iconic buildings in Pioneer Square. The name Good Arts pays homage to Good Eats, a two-story diner once housed there. It’s also been home to department stores, a cigar shop, jazz club, boxing gym, brothels and speakeasies.
The building opened in 1890, but as I stand outside the doors are locked to me. Looking up, I see carved stone arches hugging big windows. Inside I know there’s artists making art, paying reasonable prices in town of murderous rents. I have to get in.
I track down Jane Richlovsky, a fabulous artist and part owner of the building. It turns out Jane, along with developer Greg Smith, theatre veteran Steve Coulter, and Cherry Street Coffee founder Ali Ghambari — purchased the building in 2015 with the mission of preserving its artistic heritage and affordability to creative enterprises.
I get in touch with Jane to let her know I’m looking for a studio. It’s like hoping for sunshine in a Seattle winter. Every week for about eight weeks, I reach out to Jane to let her know what I’m up to, if there’s been any openings. Soon it’s February 2020. A month before the world starts to shut down.
In March 2020 a sublet opens in the studios of Clare Johnson. We meet, we like each other, Clare agrees to let me sublet her studio while she heads off on a residency. I’m in.
What’s this got to do with Seattle art history?
On June 10, 2022, the community-based preservation organization Historic Seattle finalized a deal to become managing partners in Pioneer Square’s Good Arts Building, home of ’57 Biscayne and other creative enterprises.
Historic Seattle’s involvement will ensure the long-term preservation of the building and continue its mission as a hub for arts, culture, and creative enterprises in perpetuity. The organization will also assume building management responsibilities as part of the partnership agreement.The Good Arts Building, located at 110 Cherry Street, on the corner of First Avenue, stands at the north gateway to Seattle’s Pioneer Square Preservation District.
The building currently houses 27 artist studios, as well as Bad Bishop Bar, Saké Nomi, Beneath the Streets Tours, Lolo’s Hair, Cherry Street Coffee House, and Open Books Poem Emporium. I’m one of the 27 artists, it’s a long stretch, but explains how I am part of the history of art in Seattle.
A new chapter in the Seattle art scene: in their words.
“Since acquiring the building in 2015, Good Arts LLC has done an incredible job of providing affordable space for artists in Seattle’s most historic and artistic neighborhood, Pioneer Square,” said Kji Kelly, executive director at Historic Seattle. “Protecting community use of space is critical in this changing city.”
The even better news is that Richlovsky and Coulter will continue to drive the building’s arts programming in the new partnership arrangement. To ensure this home for the arts will endure as a legacy, they plan to bequeath their ownership interest to Historic Seattle.
“While landmarking and historic districts save places, mission-based ownership is what protects purpose. Our organization is dedicated to saving meaningful places that foster lively communities, so this partnership with Good Arts LLC is in perfect alignment with our mission,” Kelly continued.
“Arts and culture are central to the historic fabric of Seattle and what makes Pioneer Square and our broader community unique and vibrant to this day,” said Urban Visions CEO and Good Arts partner Greg Smith. “Preserving this building and the artistic endeavors within was a personal passion of mine, and I am thrilled to see Historic Seattle taking this step to ensure the building’s long-term uses will remain focused on fostering arts, culture and creativity.”
“Too often artists’ cultural and economic contributions are rewarded with displacement from the neighborhoods they helped make interesting and vital,” Richlovsky added. “It’s rare that developers recognize that, and even rarer they step up to help.”
“Our Good Arts Building has been a magical endeavor through the love and hard work of tremendous people. I want to express my deepest gratitude to my brother and business partner, Greg Smith, and my dearest friends and partners Jane Richlovsky, Steve Coulter, with a shout-out to Michael Aguero and Armando Garcia with Urban Visions for managing the building during the hardest time and bringing it to the level of magic it is now,” said Ali Ghambari.
“This miracle would not have come together without their sincere love and passion in building a remarkable community. Their goodness and talent is overwhelming. I am truly privileged to be their partner. I cannot think of any organization better to pass this magic on for generations to come than Historic Seattle. Their passion and love is exemplary,” Ghambari added.
Now, Richlovsky, who has had a studio in Pioneer Square for 20 years, is looking forward to a new chapter.
“I’m really excited to take what we’ve built together and hand the reins to Historic Seattle. They get us,” she said. “I am planning to be here for at least 20 more.”