Seattle’s historic Coliseum Theater, previous Banana Republic shop to get new life

Yoshiko Yap

A downtown Seattle landmark is having a new lease on existence. The Coliseum Theater, developed as a point out-of-the-artwork cinema in 1916 and later dwelling to apparel retailer Banana Republic, will grow to be, quickly, a sprawling artwork house opening in summertime 2023. 

After its 2020 pandemic closure, the previous Banana Republic shop on the corner of Fifth Avenue and Pike Street had been sitting vacant guiding boarded-up home windows. Curators Julianne Johnson and Austin Bellamy Hicks of art creation enterprise XO Seattle system to get rid of the plywood, install art in the window shows, dust off the interior and fill the 13,000 sq. feet with artwork installations, paintings, are living music, manner shows, get-togethers and additional. 

Though the artwork area likely won’t be permanent, XO23 — as it is remaining identified as — is environment up store at the very least by means of the fall, perhaps longer. The grand opening show and occasion will coincide with the Seattle Artwork Honest in late July, but the duo ideas to set up artwork in the windows ahead of then. In the meantime, they’ll retain occupied with repairs, patching holes, building partitions for artwork, installing lights and cleaning up the space. 

“It’s nuts,” Hicks claimed in an job interview in the area on Monday, his black trousers speckled with the drywall mud he was working with to fill in the holes left in the wall by clothes racks. “It’s like we acquired a [expletive] museum! It’s bananas.” 

With its tall ceiling, spherical arches, chandeliers and adorned friezes, in addition its famed white glazed terra-cotta facade adorned with festoons, cornices and Corinthian keystones, the building definitely has the pomp of a grand museum. 

The Coliseum Theater, made by Seattle architect B. Marcus Priteca, was just one of the very first theaters in the globe meant specifically for flicks, offered that its auditorium didn’t have a stage. It did have an elevator, electrical method and pipe organ, in addition an in-dwelling orchestra that accompanied silent movies. Currently, the developing is a Seattle landmark and detailed in the Countrywide Sign up of Historic Locations.

With the monster film “Tremors,” the theater closed its doorways in 1990. Just after an comprehensive renovation and a seismic retrofit, Banana Republic took up residency in 1994. Nowadays, the doorways to the auditorium keep on being locked, as it has fallen into disrepair, Hicks stated, and is too dangerous to be occupied. 

But as Hicks gave a tour of the house, he produced very clear there was no dearth of space or interesting architectural components. Immediately after he walked below a extensive arch framing a set of stairs, Hicks stopped at a lofty dome clad with silver leafing. “This constructing does not have a negative angle,” he reported. 

The building — owned by an Iowa business called Coliseum Making LLC — is in fairly very good shape, with all set-created monitor lighting and niches left from its retail times. (Associates for the constructing owners have been not accessible for an interview prior to publication.) 

Also prepared-created for artwork: the dressing rooms. “These dressing rooms, we’re gonna ideally hand above to artists for small, bizarre installations,” Hicks mentioned. In one more area of interest, community Tlingit language instructor, tattooer and artist Nahaan will be carving a canoe. The basement will be a primary location for light and neon installations. 

The vast open space also will allow for extra a few-dimensional installation artwork, by nearby artists like Emily Tanner-McLean and Kate Bailey, who is working on an set up of blimps that will hover as a result of the house like Roombas. 

Johnson and Hicks (who are also lifetime companions) really do not want to expose a lot additional, besides that they’ve tapped regional artists-curators barry johnson and Seth Sexton as co-curators (of 12 overall) as very well as an remarkable array of additional than 80 emerging and “museum-caliber” artists. “Because we got a museum,” Hicks claimed. 

XO Seattle didn’t exactly “get” the setting up: they are paying a modest rent and 10% of any financial gain they make to the assets proprietors (moreover utilities and insurance policies, which will come out to around yet another $1,000 for each month), they claimed. This settlement with the homeowners arrived, they said, immediately after an introduction from a close by small business owner who experienced frequented an earlier XO Seattle venture, and almost five months of negotiations. 

Seattle Periods arts economy protection

Seattle’s lively arts scene contributes drastically to the dynamism of our region but it faces challenges such as skyrocketing costs, authentic estate difficulties and ongoing fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. With assistance from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Belief, The Seattle Times requires an in-depth glance at the small business of the arts and the arts as an financial driver in our location. We invite you to sign up for the conversation. Send out your tales, reviews, ideas and suggestions to [email protected].

Once intros were being designed, XO Seattle made their pitch to the home owners: They could get some eyes on the creating and “take the boards off the doorways,” Julianne Johnson mentioned. In addition: Jobs like these, Johnson mentioned, also support pay for builders and residence owners “community goodwill.” “If you can affiliate the creating and folks driving it with arts and culture, and cool happenings in the town, that’s not almost nothing.” 

Johnson and Hicks talk from knowledge: It’s not the very first time they are filling a vacant constructing with artwork. Hicks reduce his tooth building out the Museum of Museums, an artwork area on Initial Hill housed in a previous medical setting up owned by Swedish Overall health Expert services. In 2021, Hicks and Johnson, in collaboration with a team of co-curators, launched Series 001, fashionable pop-up artwork and style exhibits and get-togethers in a vacant South Lake Union warehouse slated for demolition. 

Johnson and Hicks rebranded as XO Seattle in the spring of 2022, when they obtained the keys to the major flooring of the RailSpur developing in Pioneer Sq., exactly where they organized a sprawling art display (and some of Seattle’s trendiest rooftop get-togethers) in July and August as aspect of the Forest for the Trees show. 

In the end, that XO Seattle exhibit welcomed much more than 30,000 persons in the span of six weeks, they mentioned, and marketed about $110,000 value of art (artists gained 60% of the sale price tag). With $250,000 in expenditures — like paying all the artists, moreover a modest charge for by themselves — and practically as a lot coming in, they nearly broke even. XO23 will be related but greater, they mentioned: Probably this yr, they’ll change a financial gain.  

It can be frowned on to communicate about income in the artwork entire world, but Johnson and Hicks don’t shy absent from the conversation. They say a nonprofit design just would not perform for a job like this: The funding they need to pull it off vastly outstrips what they can patch collectively with only grants, which usually require additional lead time, Hicks observed. 

In its place, Johnson and Hicks plan to patch collectively at the very least 50 percent of the approximated $500,000 in fees (for the build-out, internet marketing, artwork installers, products and additional) upfront. They are elevating this dollars via crowdfunding, grants and investors, who get a 10% return on investment if XO Seattle turns a income immediately after paying out a profit share to the developing operator. They then “hope to get compensated back again through charging tickets, providing artwork and marketing drinks,” Hicks claimed — and get as considerably cash as feasible into the palms of their co-curators, artists, and carrying out bands and DJs. 

“We are intrigued in prospects to make revenue for artists,” Johnson mentioned. 

“People must shell out to be around artwork,” Hicks additional. “Artists have been executing all this perform ‘on spec’ endlessly, they keep all the charges. You must have to shell out to very own a portray, you need to have to spend to stand next to a portray and get a image of it. There demands to be more of an financial system exactly where folks are having to pay for that expertise.” 

Hicks and Johnson hope XO23 can verify that this model performs. That artwork can be an financial engine and help revitalize vacant areas — and maybe even downtown at large. 

“We feel like what we’re doing is a concrete detail, and it’s gonna deliver some joyfulness and a lot of enjoyable and a great deal of consideration to what is achievable,” Johnson explained. “We definitely hope to be part of this imaginative spark.” 


This protection is partly underwritten by the M.J. Murdock Charitable Rely on. The Seattle Periods maintains editorial handle about this and all its protection.

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