Weaving a dream in Seattle’s Cascade Neighborhood

Artist Adream de Valdivia sits atop the Y at Cascade Peoples Center and his civic mural "A dream for Cascade" completed in late July. (Photo: Josh Epstein) They say a picture’s worth a thousand words.

Just east of the bustle of Seattle’s rapidly developing South Lake Union neighborhood, a newly complete civic mural reminds visitors of how interpersonal connections, personal surroundings and an awareness of the environment can influence a community, and balance change.

“Here, everything is fast paced,” said Capitol Hill artist Adream de Valdivia who was commissioned for the 100-foot-long mural symbolically knitting together the upper façade of neighborhood’s Y at Cascade People’s Center through a Community Project grant in cooperation with the South Lake Union Community Council. The project was part of Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s Find It, Fix It community walking tour of Cascade on July 11.

“It’s so easy to lose sight of people connecting,” said the artist, gesturing to a handful of construction cranes standing sentry over the global technology and health sciences research hub emerging just to the west.

“This is about being in the here and now,” he said. “To be more sensitive to what we are seeing.”

The completed 100-foot-long "A Dream for Cascade" mural at the entrain to the Y at Cascade People's Center (Photo: Josh Epstein)

For de Valdivia, a principled 30-year-old who grew up along the Columbia River in the Tri-Cities communities of Richland and Pasco before coming to Seattle to study at Cornish College of the Arts, his work with carefully outlined geometric shapes and iconic environmental imagery does as much to beautify the building and neighboring Cascade Playground as it does to knit together a diverse, residential community.

The mural "A Dream for Cascade" is inspired by the aboriginal dream art and traditional Spanish tapestries knitted by his grandmother Flora Arteaga.

“She is the big dreamer,” said de Valdivia, a first-generation American whose first name, pronounced AHH-dree-uhm, comes from a family belief that ‘life is a dream’.

“It was her dream to offer her kids more opportunities,” he said.

And de Valdivia’s dream too.

While woven tapestry as an art form dates back to third century China depicting symbolic emblems, mottoes and coats of arms of nobility, the father of a two-year-old is among a contemporary generation of artists applying personal expression, styles and subject matter either through weft-faced tapestry or other mediums to engage neighbors.

In Cascade, de Valdivia has enlivened the side of a once-bleak building with spray paint from a local hardware store, helping to tell a story and knit together one of Seattle’s oldest neighborhoods.

“All the details. It’s a lot of problem solving,” said de Valdivia, climbing down a few rungs on an aluminum ladder to replace a can of lime-green industrial spray paint, one of some 27 individual cans used craft the fresco -- easiestly the largest in Cascade.

With the look of well-thought-out street graffiti with Hispanic overtures, his completed works have spanned genres and generations with depictions of historical figures such as Albert Einstein and Ben Franklin to the likeness of Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder at a favorite neighborhood coffee stop, Café Torino.

Artist Adream de Valdivia describing his new civic mural in Cascade to Seattle Mayor Ed Murray during a Find It, Fix It walking tour in July.

An award winning artist who has over 1,000 paintings and sculptures to his credit including a mural project honoring U.S. veterans that he has underway in Olympia, De Valdivia’s works espouse the energy of a city – street art with life-changing moments.

Both his art – and inspiration to paint, deliver a message.

During a high school field trip to the Seattle Art Museum, de Valdivia was taken aback by the work of an early 20th century Mexican surrealist, Frida Kahlo. Her work spoke to him.

Remembered for her self-portraits, pain and passion, and bold, vibrant colors, de Valdivia explained the intensity – and hope that he could see in Kahlo’s art.

And also in the historic, working-class Cascade community, stressed with the aches of a growing city.

“I learned that anyone, especially Frida as the power to turn pain into passion,” he said. “It was her view. How she saw everything taught me to let go and express myself through painting.”

“Like Cascade and its people. It reminds me to listen more and stay connected,” de Valdivia said.

“And now I’m a part of it,” he said. “It’s the beginning of what can be done to make people feel at home.”

If You Go

The Cascade Tapestry is located on the southern façade of the Y at Cascade People's Center in Seattle’s Cascade Playground. 309 Pontius Ave. North, Seattle, WA 98109.

Paintings by Adream Pedro de Valdivia can be seen at Adream Studios, 815 East Pine Street, Seattle, WA 98101, Monday – Friday from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Or follow Adream Studios on Facebook at  AdreamStudios or Instagram at Adream300.

~ The author Mike McQuaid is the president of the South Lake Union Community Council

Meeting our South Lake Union Neighbors

Sally Bagshaw Earlier this month Seattle City Councilmember Sally Bagshaw attended a meeting of the South Lake Union Community Council, a very well organized and committed group of people who work and live in the rapidly growing South Lake Union community.

Learn more about what Councilmember Bagshaw learned from neighbors during her visit to South Lake Union and the neighborhood’s efforts with traffic congestion, pedestrian safety, economic vitality during construction, and affordable housing in a growing city. Read the full story in Seattle City Councilmember Sally Bagshaw's Blog.

MOHAI Thrilled to Begin Construction

After successfully ratifying their agreement with the city, MOHAI is thrilled about moving ahead with the construction phase of the Naval Reserve Building (Armory) in Lake Union Park.  In January of 2011, construction crews will begin upgrading the building to museum quality standards, while preserving its significant historical attributes. The Grand Opening is planned for mid-2012 and will coincide with MOHAI’s 60th Anniversary of service to the community. MOHAI estimates that 120,000 visitors each year will tour the new Museum of History and Industry.

"We were so heartened and humbled by the tremendous outpouring of support for the museum," said MOHAI Executive Director Leonard Garfield, in regard to the public discussion during the recent dispute with the City of Seattle.  "The support was across the board – and frankly we were surprised by the breadth and passion of the support we received from people who said they believe in us."

The disagreement with the city is complex and there has been some misinformation. The one thing that Garfield wants to stress is that the monetary resources needed to transform MOHAI are coming from the state – not the city. No city money is being taken away from other projects to fund MOHAI.  MOHAI’s current Montlake location was needed for the State Route 520 floating bridge expansion project. The state compensated MOHAI for the property and expenses involved in relocation.

This summer Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn asked to renegotiate the plan when MOHAI received more state money than was expected from the mitigation negotiations. In September the Seattle City Council unanimously voted to hold the city to the original deal that allows the museum to receive up to $7 million from the state. "The money from the state was intended for MOHAI.  The city council clearly understood this," said Garfield.

The physical move is one part, but MOHAI is taking the opportunity to upgrade the museum as well. "Private fundraising will transform the museum into a whole new way of telling Seattle’s history," said Garfield.  The new space has 35,000 square feet in exhibit space, as opposed to 20,000 square feet currently, and there will be more multimedia and interactive exhibits. In addition to the permanent collection, the new space will also house a traveling gallery, with changing exhibits from other museums. For a sneak preview of the new space, check out this video tour.

In the meantime, the visitor experience remains robust at the Montlake location, which will stay open into 2012. MOHAI is dedicated to enriching lives by preserving, sharing and teaching the diverse history of Seattle, the Puget Sound region and the nation.

Amazon Catapults Development of SLU

Phase One of Amazon.com’s new corporate headquarters is completed and thousands of Amazon employees—and their dogs—are moving into SLU. “The landing of Amazon is catapulting the development of the neighborhood,” said Lorie Groth, SLU Community Council board member.

Amazon, founded in 1995, is a Fortune 500 company and a global leader in e-commerce. The internet retailer, which sells everything from books to electronics to tennis rackets to diamond jewelry, continues to grow its workforce despite a global economic downturn.

The first phase of Amazon’s headquarters includes four buildings totaling nearly 450,000 square feet.  Phase 1A is a full block consisting of three buildings bordered by Terry Ave N, Harrison Street, Republican Street and Boren Ave N.  Phase 1B includes one new building on the southwest corner of Terry Ave N and Mercer.

Phases 2-4 are currently under construction and Phase 5 is expected to break ground next Spring. The entire headquarters will include 11 buildings, plus the leased office space at 2201 Westlake – bringing the total Amazon footprint in SLU to 1.9 million square feet.

Upon completion in 2013, several thousand Amazon employees will be working at the unified location, according to Michele Glisson, Amazon spokesperson.  As Amazon transitions to the new campus, many of its Seattle employees are working in other buildings around the city.

“We are just getting started, and our teams are enjoying the opportunity to get to know our neighbors and experience SLU’s convenient access to amenities, public transit, open space and retail,” said Glisson.

Approximately 100,000 square feet of the project will be street level public amenities, including the Tom Douglas restaurants planned for the historic Terry Avenue Building.  This 1915 building—which has served as a truck factory, a cabinet warehouse, and a flooring distributor headquarters—is being used as a design model for the development.  Architect Peter Krech said in The Seattle Times, that the architectural design of Amazon’s Seattle headquarters “is really a modern interpretation of the warehouse.

Welcome to PATH: A Catalyst for Global Health

In PATH’s new offices in the 2201 Westlake building, the large inscription, “We envision a world where health is within reach for everyone,” guides the work of the over 300 employees who occupy 3 floors and 112,000 square feet of office space.

PATH, the international nonprofit organization, moved their headquarters to SLU in January. Their mission is to improve the health of people around the world, by focusing on: emerging and epidemic disease, health technologies, maternal and child health, reproductive health, and vaccines and immunizations.

The new office space is innovative in design, offering small individual cubicles with multiple spaces for meetings and group collaboration.  In addition to housing the leadership and experts in various fields, PATH also contains a  laboratory and product development shop.

"PATH is very pleased to be in our new home in South Lake Union," said Eric Walker, vice president, Corporate Services at PATH. "Our new location puts PATH closer to our partners in the global health community and the region's leaders in research, health, and technology."

Come meet PATH at the SLU Chamber meeting

You have a chance to learn more about PATH at the February 17 SLU Chamber of Commerce meeting, held from 11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. at the REI conference room.  Ellen Cole, Director, Visibility and Marketing, will speak on “From Seattle to the World: The Story of PATH.” Cole increases PATH’s visibility as a leader in global health, leading the institution’s marketing efforts, and directing the range of its online communications.

"We are delighted to welcome PATH as another new world-class neighbor in the South Lake Union community, joining other innovators who call the area home," said Ada Healey, Vulcan's vice president of real estate.  "PATH will be a vital part of South Lake Union's creative class workforce that will help drive a new economic engine for our entire region, attracting new investment and jobs to the area."

PATH has offices in 28 cities and 19 countries and employs more then 800 people. PATH’s Seattle staff has doubled in the past decade, and the new offices leave room for growth.

History is Moving: A New Era for MOHAI

Perhaps you’ve heard the saying, “the future is just around the corner”? For the South Lake Union neighborhood, history is just around the corner too.

The Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI), which focuses on the history of the Puget Sound Region, will be moving to Lake Union Park in 2012, remodeling the historic Naval Reserve Building as their new location, with 32,000 square feet dedicated to gallery space.  But this is not just a move—it is a transformation. The new museum will welcome 120,000 visitors each year to experience the past, the present and the future through interactive exhibits.

A visitor to the new museum will enter a vast atrium with four exhibit towers that focus on the important topics of the 21st century: natural resources, people, innovation and technology. On the second level, visitors will travel through the chronological narrative of Puget Sound’s rich history.

“MOHAI is very excited to be moving to the South Lake Union neighborhood. This central location will certainly enhance our visibility and attendance and we’re looking forward to a greater capacity to serve both the community and out of town visitors,” said Mercedes Lawry, Director of Communications at MOHAI. “So much of our local history is reflected in the history of the South Lake Union neighborhood and this, coupled with our relocating to a beautiful historic building in a wonderful new park, makes it an ideal site for a re-imagined history museum.”

During the last 50 years in its Montlake location, MOHAI has engaged Seattle residents, out-of-town visitors and thousands of K-12 students who visit the museum each year as part of the classroom curriculum.  Due to the 520 bridge expansion plans, MOHAI needs to move to a new location, but they also want to transform the experience of what history is.  Persons wishing to support the $40 million capital campaign can visit HistoryIsMoving.org or they can contact Elaine Ethier at (206) 324-1126.