Walden Three at the Seven Seas Building
The Seven Seas Building is located in downtown Seattle. Walden 3 is staged in this six-story building, with arts programming happening on four of the six floors. Click through for an overview of how each floor operates and the types of exhibitions and events that happen within W3.
The Seven Seas Building was constructed in the late 1880s and originally functioned as "The Wholesale House of C. Sidney Shepard & Co., Seattle." Over the course of a century, the building hosted a number of commercial businesses, including the Sultan Hotel, Hotel Vendome, Seven Seas Tavern, Sultan's Cinema, a cigar shop and a gun range. In 1966, the northern half of the building was demolished, leaving the central staircase and the six floors of the southern structure. In 1985, the Lusty Lady moved into the first floor and became the buildings sole and last tenant, going out of business in 2010 citing lack of patronage.
The Seven Seas Building is immediately across the street from the Seattle Art Museum and the Lusty Lady marquee often commented on current exhibits or the Hammering Man statue. Mimi Gates called the Lusty Lady's marquee a Seattle landmark.
The building owners gutted the six-floor building (Two levels above first avenue and three below) and are preparing for seismic retrofitting and other renovations, including an elevator and HVAC to bring the building to code. Estimated cost at critical renovations is 4 million dollars. The building owner is willing to incur these costs and lease at market rate, but the ideal tenant would assume a master lease with the building "as is." There are roughly 25,000 square feet distributed over 6 floors with pedestrian access on Post Alley (B3) and First Avenue (A1). The roof top holds possibilities for development, understanding that the Four Seasons Hotel owns the air rights over 10 feet from the top of the building.
In 2006, the Lusty Lady survived the threat of the wrecking ball when the building's owner, a Seattle family, refused a multi-million-dollar tear down offer from developers of a new Four Seasons Hotel next door. The owners instead received $850,000 "for air rights to the views over their property.
Currently the building is vacant and awaits development in a down economy.
The top floor gallery is a 3,300 square foot exhibition space designated for installations, performance and cross-disciplinary works. It primarily serves as a non-commercial exhibition space designed for conceptual, site-specific and/or temporary works.
The Mercer Gallery is a relatively raw space with an open floor plan and a small portable office to house the curatorial staff.
W3 offers small artist stipends and materials budgets for the creation of the works, and also assists artists in procuring additional funding (grants) and secondary venues outside of the Pacific Northwest.
This space is designed to take chances, question the identity and role of art and the artist, provoke, fail and challenge our ideas about self-expression and art. These performances, installations and other hybrids may not always look or feel like traditional gallery exhibition and may even fail to achieve the distinction as art. Creative works (exhibits/events) may last a minute, an hour, a week, or a month.
The success of the Mercer Gallery is founded upon the imagination and ambition of the artists and ideas presented, not upon critical acclaim or financial gain.
Examples of Artists: Implied Violence, SuttonBeresCuller, Iole Allesandrini, New Mystics, Degenerate Art Ensemble, Lead Pencil
Examples of Curators: Beth Sellars, Robin Held, Yoko Ott, Sierra Stinson
The second floor of Walden Three is dedicated to commercial exhibition and art sales. Eight regional curators and/or dealers mount one show per year, showcasing what they believe to be the very best in Pacific Northwest contemporary art. The gallery will host eight exhibitions a year, with a ninth, end-of-the-year salon, exhibiting the most dynamic and definitive pieces from Portland to Vancouver BC. These nine exhibitions are the polished commodities of Walden Three, designed to make money and push mid-career artists towards national and international recognition.
Examples of Artists: Dan Webb, Warren Dykeman, Gretchen Bennett, Jack Daws
Examples of Curators: Billy Howard, Greg Kucera, Scott Lawrimore, Kristen Anderson, Gail Gibson, James Harris
Each curator would work on a flat commissioned-based scale to minimize production overhead and maximize the incentive to exhibit and sell work. Curators would work with the understanding that they are given a production budget and supportive staff to market and mount exhibitions.
First Ave Portal
A1 is the first floor storefront accessible from 1st Avenue and the main entrance to Walden Three. It hosts a variety of functions and is the gateway to the other dimensions of the space. It does have five primary roles- that of an art school, wardrobe and stylist station, peep show installations, a coffee shop and a common space for visitors to congregate, socialize and learn more about the events within the building. Here is the breakdown, understanding that A-1 is an open floor plan and designed as a flexible space.
The first floor will also be a social space for informal gatherings, meetings and general relaxing between other programming at W3. It is modeled after a worn hotel lobby (see Ace Hotels) that provides comfortable seating, reading material, WI-FI and capable of hosting informal discussions.
There will be a commercial coffee kiosk operated by a PNW roaster, serving beverages, light fare and W3 merchandise. It will have a relatively small footprint on the ground floor but help create a casual space, generate income and encourage an environment for social exchange and gathering. This will be an income producing sublet to an existing PNW coffee company, such as Stumptown/Café Vita/Vivace/etc.
Peep Show Installations
It is important to recognize the past tenant and retain some of the spirit and history of the building. This could include "Live Nude Figure Drawing" in the classroom area, as well as traditional peep show windows, that when fed dollar bills, reveal some private visual art installation, such as video, installation, or live conversations with participating artists. Behind these small mechanical windows would lay an interesting rotating of artist-made installations, performances and video.
Denny School of Art
Art schools are very expensive and not accessible to the majority of a population. In order for a city to foster a great cultural movement, the residents of that city must have access to art history, art theory, artist lectures and art production. Walden Three will employ two full-time art teachers versed in both studio and academic studies. Available to all visitors, W3 art classes cost one dollar, and happen daily on the broad staircase between A1 and B1.
This classroom will host TED style lectures from the creative community, discussions and informal conversations such as John Boylan, Ignite and Four Peaks do, as well as offer more formal instructional based training in drawing, painting, performance and craft.
The art school will have a video feed that will document and live broadcast all educational programming, artist lectures and other stage-based performances, readings and entertainment. This will be fed through the W3 website in real time, and selected lectures and activities will be edited and archived for long term education access on the W3 site, itunes, Youtube, Vimeo and other web-based platforms. The emphasis is providing dynamic educational content for a regional as well as international audience.
As a film set, W3 will be in need of stylists who help dress, style and provide hair and make-up to the actors/visitors/set extras of Walden Three. The stylist station is in the entry of the building, greeting visitors and encouraging them to engage in personal transformation – including haircuts, fashion counsel, make up and accessories. It is designed to make the guests of W3 more visually interesting and part of the project instead of simple spectators. This station would be in conjunction with hair studios like Vain, stylist schools like Gene Juarez and fashion/art students eager to transform the general public into something spectacular. Sometimes changing the physical appearance of a person is the first step into changing the way they think and behave, and our stylist station is a fun and accessible way to prepare visitors for a unique art experience. It also makes the documentary film much more visually dynamic.
The Artist Bazaar
The first lower level will serve as a daily artists and craft marketplace, with approximately (100) booths for independent exhibition and sales. These booths would be rented on a monthly or daily basis to local artists ($250.00 per month/$25.00 per day), selected by W3 staff, and serve as a vibrant draw and eclectic mix of regional art goods. It would create a revenue base of $25,000.00 per month and help shepherd a broad range of artists and visitors into the space. Given the proximity to the Pike Place Market, SAM and the downtown core, the bazaar would serve a healthy tourist trade as well as regional shoppers.
Examples of existing models: I Heart Rummage, Punk Rock Flea Market, Makers Fair, Craft Uprising, Pike Place Market
W3 Production Offices
The second lower level would be the production offices, meeting space, a commercial grade kitchen and sleeping quarters for use by W3 staff and collaborators. It is not open to the public, but can be utilized as a mixed-use space for work and social gatherings. This is where the production team creates, eats, meets, and socializes. It is defined as such:
The ground level basement opens out to post alley and acts as the dance club, cocktail lounge and second entrance into Walden Three. This space is operated as an independent bar/restaurant space, serving patrons, artists and the general public at large. It is a revenue generating leased space operated by a select tenant at market rate.
Examples of tenants: Linda Derchang, Mark Stoner
Bringing the Building/Set to Code
This 1880s building, located at 1313 – 1st Avenue, requires substantial retrofitting and renovation to bring it to code and legal to occupy.
The building owners have solicited a comprehensive bid for this structural work, with a preliminary construction price of ($3,392,560.00) for phase IIB, plus Washington State Sales Tax. These figures reflect the following contractors and below work description:
Team: Lydig Construction, McKinstry Engineering, IL Gross Structural
Engineers: CollinsWoerman, THG, LLC
Schedule: Approximately 12 months including City of Seattle approvals.
Given the use of the building, the need for tenant improvements are necessary but economical. B-3 will be built-out by a sublet tenant, and B-1, A-1, A-2 and A-3 are basically large, open floor plans, only needing bathrooms and finished surfaces. The production offices and resident apartment will require a more structural build out, but the design of Walden Three relies on large open spaces without decoration or complexities.
We have estimated the cost for renovation and remodeling at $1,500,000.00 + Washington Sales tax. Below is a floor by floor overview of these improvements, created by Greg Lundgren in partnership with Olson Kundig Architects:
A3 – Returning it to a clean open space.
A2 – Returning it to a clean open space
A1 – Reconfiguring the space for access to B1 and A2
B1 – Returning it to a clean open space
B2 – Returning it to a clean open space
B3 – Returning it to a clean open space
In the mid-1990’s, the owners of the Seven Seas Building refused an above market-rate offer from the Four Seasons Hotel. About to begin construction on a new multi-million dollar, five star hotel, they wished to secure more real estate and capitalize on the expansive views of Elliot Bay and greater Puget Sound. It wasn’t the first time that the family had turned down a generous offer, but after continued conversation, they did agree to an unusual deal – for $800,000.00 the Four Seasons Hotel purchased the air rights above the building – insuring that no future high-rise would obstruct their sweeping views to the south. The Four Seasons effectively purchased the air rights ten feet above the roof of their neighbor.
When renovating the Seven Seas Building for W3 operations, it was impossible not to view the 4,000 square foot tar roof as a brilliant outdoor space brimming with potential. Just so long as we didn’t breach the 10 foot easement, our new cargo elevator could open out onto this envisioned roof deck. Would it be a sculpture park, host summer parties, support a ‘living roof’, a zip line to Alki Beach?
What we had not envisioned was a 47 foot wooden Chris Craft yacht pointed towards the sound and housing an artist-residency program.
Seattle art collectors Elli and Dan Hansen have been avid supporters of Walden Three, and from the very beginning had offered their Lake Union yacht as a place for visiting W3 artists to stay. The boat, aptly called The Tranquilizer, rarely left its moorage, but proved to be a generous, and truly functional place to house artists. It was an adventure to sleep aboard, and with three staterooms, it comfortably slept six, with two bathrooms, a full kitchen and spacious living quarters… it was just about perfect.
I don’t want to give a bottle of Blanton’s bourbon full credit, but by the time it was drained (along with a case of red wine, a fifth of tequila and numerous other spirits), Dan, Alan Maskin, Sierra Stinson, Sarah Bergman, Ben Beres, Amanda Manatach, DK Pan and myself had imagined The Tranquilizer on the roof of Walden Three, plumbed into W3’s utilities and serving as a year-round artist-residency program. It was indeed a late-night drunken dream, and while more absurd things had been realized, I think our collective hang over washed away our enthusiasm and chalked up the night as another lively engagement.
The conversation seemed to be quickly forgotten to everyone except Elli and Dan Hansen.
While we were busy filming and producing exhibits at W3, Elli and Dan were on a mission – talking with Ness Cranes, Turner Construction, Olson Kundig Architects and The Four Seasons (the flybridge of The Tranquilizer would rest 14′-4″ above the roofline) and last week we were formally gifted The Tranquilizer. Yes, there will be a yacht on the roof. A. Yacht. On. The. Roof. (How do you scream excitement with a keyboard?) The twin diesel engines will be removed, a section of the hull cut away and retrofitted for stability, and the natural gas, water and sewage will route into our existing utilities.
The Tranquilizer is on schedule to be crane-lifted onto its perch in late February 2014. We cannot thank Elli and Dan enough, but we will do our very best to make their family yacht one of the most dynamic artist-residency programs in the world, and with Sierra Stinson at the helm of the project, it is sure to be a coveted destination for artists, writers, musicians and all who care to dream with us.
Happy holidays, and thank you for helping us imagine a greater city.
The Peppermint show has been open for a couple of weeks now, garnering its share of kudos from art literati, protests from the Seattle Archdiocese, and endless bickering from the blogosphere. The educational staff here at Walden 3 stand firm in our belief that the best way to address the questions from this controversial show is to ask you, the concerned public, to weigh in, live, next Thursday, as part of our continuing lecture series. Since it’s all about judgment, we will be turning the steps of the Denny School of Art into an ersatz courtroom, over which will preside the Honorable Sandra Jackson-Dumont, from the Seattle Art Museum. On trial will be the works of four men versus their bodies of work, in an attempt to find consensus on how the art stands up to the artists’ various ignominious behaviors.
CASE 1: the soul-enlivening musical canon of “the Hardest-working Man in Show Business” vs. infamous spouse abuser and drug addict James Brown
CASE 2: the high craft, deft meta-irony of one of the NW’s premier ceramic masters vs. Nazi-sympathizer and Holocaust downplayer Charles Krafft
CASE 3: the quirky, earnest folk art paintings of a late-blooming romantic vs. the corrupt, dunder-headed political nightmare of George W. Bush
CASE 4: the curious oeuvre of therapeutic peppermint paintings vs. the show’s headlining artist, Thomas Henkelsen.
For each case, the audience will be invited to act as both prosecutors and defendants, microphones will be used for testimony, claims and evidence will be fact-checked by the staff at W3, opinions will be passionately given, debate fostered, civility will be expected, but argument will be encouraged. Judge Jackson-Dumont will mediate when necessary, and all four men’s cases will be decided by the jury of all present with a formal vote. Matters will be settled thereafter at the Dial, where discussion is likely to carry on until closing time. We hope you can come with compelling testimonies and enjoy an evening of inspired judgment.
Friday night marked the opening of Thomas Henkelsen’s controversial retrospective Peppermint, in the Dearborn Gallery. At first glance, one wouldn’t imagine the show to ruffle any feathers – the 110 paintings and collages on display span an art career from 1959 to 2013 and arc from outsider/amateur artist to photorealist to abstract expressionist – all referencing an obsession with peppermint ice cream. At first glance, the viewer can watch the evolution of an artist – a flip book of progress and deconstruction – and think “what’s not to love?” But it is the life of Mr. Henkelsen that disturbs and throws into question almost every aspect of his art-making career. It is by far the most polarizing and controversial show yet exhibited at W3, and from the protesters on the street to the heated conversations in the gallery above, Peppermint asks a plethora of questions about the relationship between artist and their works, and the challenges of celebrating, or even liking work made by individuals with bad ideas and unpardonable crimes.
In an attempt to diversify the voice and work exhibited at Walden Three, we work with a rotating cast of leading guest curators – art dealers, museum curators and risk-taking art producers from British Columbia to Eugene, Oregon. Of the 20+ yearly exhibitions we host at Walden Three, only a handful are selected by our staff. We would like to think that we have a few good ideas of our own, and receiving more than a hundred unsolicited proposals and artist inquires a month, there is no shortage of work to consider. Peppermint was one of these unsolicited letters of interest, and as controversial as it may be, it was just too rich a territory to ignore.
Thomas Henkelsen was a priest in Yakima, Washington from 1955 to 1988. Maybe you’ve heard of him. He is currently serving 178 years in Walla Walla State Penitentiary on 57 counts of child molestation. It was a big story when it broke in the early 1990s, but like much of the news (or news of that sort) we forget about it and move along to the next tragedy or war or snip of celebrity gossip. Thomas Henkelsen is 21 years into his sentence, and strangely, amazingly, he has become an exceptional, and exceptionally complex painter.
Henkelsen was brought to our attention by a tri-cities artist named Bobby Grutt. He is no angel himself (serving time in the 1980s-90s for drug possession, forgery and armed robbery), but has been volunteering and teaching art therapy within the penal system for the past decade. Mr. Henkelsen was a prolific student of Mr. Grutt’s, and as Mr. Grutt wrote in his introductory letter, “a raw, troubled talent that cannot be ignored or eclipsed by the crimes of his past.” His letter and CD of Mr. Henkelsen’s 1,254 works became a pebble in our shoe – we couldn’t get it out of our mind, and in the fall of 2011, drove east to visit Bobby Grutt and the incarcerated Henkelsen. Never before have we approached an exhibition with as much caution, legal counsel, trepidation and community outreach, but driving back to Seattle after that first meeting, we could not deny the emotional complexity of his work and the importance of the conflict it presented. We want to exhibit shows that made people struggle and argue and cry and recalibrtate their understanding of art and the world at large. Peppermint fell squarely within that mission, despite the black eyes and moral conflicts it has inflicted.
What makes his paintings, and motivations rather sinister is that peppermint ice cream is what he would give to his young victims after molesting them. It was his way of “making things right” and “making the kids happy” (his words). In some way, his hundreds of paintings of peppermint ice cream cones are offered to the world – or anyone that will give them the time – in an effort to make up for the bad he has done. In a very real way, 100% of the sales from this exhibition at Walden Three will go towards the victims and their families. Thomas Henkelsen will not receive a penny from this exhibition, though W3 did honor his singular request – that all visiting guests be given a single scoop of peppermint ice-cream.
Somewhere within the trajectory of Mr. Henkelsen’s incarceration, his mouthwatering ice-cream paintings lost their seduction. His forms twisted and melted, became diseased, abstract and often repulsive. His color palate remained primarily pink and white, but the shapes and forms mutated, corrupted, and decayed like a promise broken. They are by far his most compelling work, but they are not the images that little boys reach for. To see the arc of his work, you can’t help but suspect a sense of guilt, of recognition, of remorse.
Should galleries and museums be showing the work of a confessed child molester? Should galleries and museums (and libraries and record shops) exhibit or sell works by artists that have committed crimes, propagated bad ideas or were ‘bad people’ in their time? Is it an immoral act in itself? Sure we are raising money to give to his victims, but will it be viewed as celebrating him, forgiving him, validating him as an artist? As David Lister observed in the catalog, “Artistic creations must be used and judged in their own vacuum, free from their creators’ weaknesses, moral failings, even criminal acts. It is not that long of a road from boycotting paintings to burning books.”
The opening reception was a packed and somber affair. There were ex-cons and religious groups, relatives of the victims (to our knowledge none of Mr. Henkelsen’s victims were in attendance) and twenty-something girls dressed in plaid schoolgirl uniforms. The Dial posted record drink sales (the most common response being “I need a drink!”) 23 ice cream cones littered the gallery floor (and three hit the gallery wall) but when the dust settled and the doors were finally locked, we had raised over $175,000.00. There was no after hours celebration, no high fives – the show still feels like a pebble in our shoe. As it should – it is a complex and disturbing and bitter pill to swallow.
Oscar Wilde wrote, “There is no such thing as a moral or immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written.” But what do we do with the immoral artist – is contemporary culture qualified to make those distinctions, and can we separate the artist from the art? Is there a place in the world for brilliant painters, designers, writers, etc. who commit crimes, propagate hatred, or are just bad people? Can we forgive, can we love the art and hate its creator? Is buying, exhibiting or endorsing the art in some way forgiving its creator? Making us an accomplice to their crime? These are the conversations that ran hot and contentious and unresolved – in the gallery, on the street and into the homes and workplaces of all that witnessed it.
Join us next week in the Denny School of Art as instructor Jed Dunkerley navigates Peppermint and the uncertain waters of censorship and morality in art. Guillermo Vargas, James Brown, George Michael, John Galliano, Authur Koestler, Fatty Arbuckle and Seattle’s own Charles Krafft to be discussed.
In conjunction with Dylan Neuwirth’s ground-breaking show IDOL THREAT in the Mercer Gallery, the Denny School of Art at Walden 3 is excited to present a lecture by NYU art historian Mark Kunstler about the ground already broken in the field of augmented reality (AR). Best Augmentations: A Survey of Noteworthy Geo-located Virtual Art will feature a slideshow of screen-shots of dozens of pieces in their geo-located habitats, as well as Kunstler’s insight into the politics, legal implications, and future of the burgeoning field. The presentation will also include real-time video interviews between Kunstler and four prominent figures in AR. Leslie Ngo, CEO and founder of RadicalEyes, a viewer app that has edged out pioneers AugmentIt and Overlair as the premier virtual real estate broker for artists, will discuss how she approached the Smithsonian regarding virtual posting rights to their exhibition spaces in D.C. There will be a live demonstration of RadicalEyes’ innovations in proximity sensing using mesh networks that give installations an accuracy to within an inch of true space. Other interviews will involve artists Cesar Enriquez (whose digital overlay of full-body nudes atop the entire collection of the National Portrait Gallery got his name on the cover of ArtForum), French sculptor Amina Moussa (whose virtual superimposition of the Muslim Kaaba on the glass pyramid at the Louvre fomented right wing anti-immigration protests in Paris), and New York animator Paul Goldblatt (whose 3D recreation of the falling man from Richard Drew’s famous photo of the 9/11 tragedy at the exact triangulated elevation of its moment of capture presents a sublime monument of the horrific event, viewable from the windows of the newly opened “Freedom Tower” at the site of the World Trade Center). It promises to be an evening of exquisite archival footage, vanguard insights, and elucidating discussion. Not to be missed.