Art Walk Co-founder, Community Leader Dena Lee Named SLU Volunteer of The Year

SOUTH LAKE UNION – South Lake Union Art Walk co-founder and community council board member Dena Lee has been named Volunteer of The Year by the South Lake Union Chamber of Commerce. Lee, a Cascade neighborhood resident, was honored at the Chamber's annual awards breakfast, Wednesday morning at Seattle's SpringHill Suites for her work as a co-founder of the flourishing neighborhood art walk. In just under a year, the progressive arts festival has grown to include some 60 artists displaying their works at 40 venues and storefronts in Seattle's South Lake Union and Cascade neighborhoods.

South Lake Union Chamber of Commerce president Curt Archambault (left) presents South Lake Union Art Walk co-founder Dena Lee with the organization's 2014 Volunteer of the Year Award. (Photo: Aaron Briggs)

"Dena Lee is a treasure to the South Lake Union and Cascade communities," said South Lake Union Community Council president, Mike McQuaid. "Her enthusiasm, community spirit and ability to bring people together through art are infectious and an inspiration to all of us in the neighborhood and beyond."

With a belief that the arts can be a catalyst for positive change resulting in stronger, healthier community, Lee started the South Lake Union Art Walk along with Andrea Florissi, owner of the neighborhood's popular Café Torino, in May 2014.   The two quickly enlisted the support and enthusiasm of the South Lake Union Community Council, South Lake Union Chamber, area businesses and a team of 10 volunteers.

"I'm very honored. Of all the years that I've done volunteer work I've never been recognized. This came as a complete surprise," said the dance educator and retired catering chef whose lifelong volunteerism includes South Lake Union service on its community council, the Advisory Board of the Y at Cascade People's Center and the city's Denny Substation Task Force along with Youth Care's Orion Center and Immanuel Lutheran Church.

For Lee and for her community, the South Lake Union Art Walk has opened doors for many artists and groups that otherwise wouldn’t have had an opportunity to share their creations and for others a preview of things to come.

Among the works displayed at the December 5 walk was a collection of tapestries depicting the 12 major religions of the world designed and sewn by members of Seattle's Unity Church.

"The congregation wanted to expose this to a broader audience," Lee said. "They finished the final one just in time for December."

In Cascade, the Y at Cascade People's Center hosted art by its AmeriCorps volunteers. And by accident, the neighborhood's community center wound up displaying a 20-foot abstract neon sculpture by All Rise, a group of Portland artists that crafted the installation to bring flare to Seattle City Light's Denny Substation project nestled between Pontius and Yale Streets.

While honored with the personal recognition of her efforts, Lee says it's all about sharing the accolades with her dedicated team of volunteers.

"The emotional, spiritual and physical support of so many people that I've worked with in South Lake Union really made this all possible," she said.

The South Lake Union Volunteer of The Year is selected by public vote and awarded to an individual who donates time, talent or money to non-work related endeavors that expressly support the spirit and growth of the South Lake Union neighborhood.

Other 2014 South Lake Union Chamber of Commerce Award winners are: Excellence in Business (Large Business); Excellence in Business (Small Business)Café Torino; Excellence in Sustainability – Zipcar; Retailer of The YearWhole Foods - South Lake Union; Non-Profit of The Year – Seattle Children's Research Institute. For a list of past award winners visit SLU Chamber Annual Awards.

To learn more about the South Lake Union Art Walk visit