Richard Prior

Writer and PBF Historian

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Survival of the Pelican Bay Co-op
text by Richard Prior with photos by Howard Giske

THE SEATTLE TIMES Sunday, June 2, 1974

The Pelican Bay Artists’
mascot, made by the
residents of the
Capitol Hill cooperative,
was placed temporarily
in front of the organization’s
newly remodeled building.

 

IN THE BEGINNING, the Pelican Bay Artists’ Cooperative was little more than a derelict old 19 unit apartment building with a leaking roof and fallen plaster littering the hallways. Then, a small group of young artists established studio space in the building and began trying to make it liveable. In the classic tradition, they spent their first winter there without heat and hot water.

Slowly word spread through the art community that something was happening on Capitol Hill and more young artists, unable to find the space they needed, began to move in. By the fall of 1972, all the studios were filled, the co-op group was formed and “fix-up” began in earnest. The artists organized orginally to give structure to an economic agreement with the owners of the building. According to the agreement, one-third of the total rent was to be paid to the owners while the remaining two-thirds was to be held in a collective fund to be used to purchase materials for repairs to the building. All repairs were to be made by the tenants.

It was a big job. Holes had to be patched, in some cases entire walls and ceilings had to be taken down and done over. The boiler had to be repaired, the plumbing traced and reconnected. Most of this work had to be certified to meet existing codes. Then there was the scraping, the sanding, the plastering and the smell of fresh paint; in the midst of all this works of art also were being created.

Just when enthusiasm was high, the city condemned the building. Tenants were served with eviction notices and it appeared as though the cooperative was at an end. An appeal was filed, an extension granted and the artists set to work at an even greater pace. A year of bringing the building up to code paid off. In early April this year another hearing was held and it was decided by the Citizens Housing Board that the group had done a fine job and the building would be spared.

More important in the eyes of some is the artistic function of the co-op. Residents say that they find living and working in close proximity to other artists of various persuasions is both stimulating and inspirational.

In December of last year the group held its first collective art show and sale in the halls of the building. Since that time it has hosted tour groups from the Henry Gallery and Evergreen College.

Plans for the future include the opening of a retail sales outlet for occupants in one of the storefronts, local landscaping of siding and parking strips and perhaps neighborhood improvements.

The cooperative is situated at 606 19th Ave. E. Parkside Health Care is the owner.

 

While professional contractors restuccoed an exterior wall,
Pelican Bay residents installed planters on the site of a projected greenhouse.
   

One of the co-op residents put up insulation inside the old building. Most of the work was done by members.

 

Working days at the co-op often end with a potluck dinner.     Linda Daly, an alumna of the Burnley School of Art, worked on the scafold, painting a sign over the co-op’s entrance. Advice was offered by Michael Osborne.

 

    Residents found themselves in some high-altitude situations during the remodeling. At left, Osborne, left, and Don Barrie scraped and painted the building’s eaves while suspended three stories up. Meanwhile, George Bryant, above, worked to take down the old greenhouse.

 

With the major work done, the residents were able to return to their original pursuit of art. Here,
from left, Teresa Major, Katherine Watson and Don Bass sketched in a life-drawing class.
 

 

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