City of Kent
The City of Kent Arts Commission would like to work with a creative consultant to develop a downtown arts and culture plan for Kent. With new development and increased energy around revitalizing downtown Kent, there are a variety of organizations and individuals with interest in incorporating art and culture. Developing a plan will allow all of the stakeholders to have ownership and to move forward with a common vision. The project will involve collaboration with the Kent Downtown Partnership, private property and business owners; and a number of city departments.
Brief background/history of the community
Kent is the sixth largest city in Washington with a population over 128,000. It is located in the heart of the Seattle-Tacoma metropolitan area. Incorporated in 1890, Kent is the second oldest incorporated city in King County, after Seattle.
During and after the Great Depression, Kent was known as the “Lettuce Capital of the World,” thanks to the city’s fertile farmland. In 1965, Boeing began building in Kent, followed by other aerospace and high-tech companies (mostly recently aerospace manufacturer Blue Origin). In recent years, Kent has experienced impressive economic growth and is now internationally known as a prime location for manufacturing. Kent is also home to many warehouses, due in part to its proximity to key transportation routes. The rapid growth in Kent’s warehouse district drew focus and resources away from historic downtown, but new development, including residential properties, has resulted in renewed interest in revitalizing the downtown core.
Kent has experienced rapidly changing demographics in the last two decades: 45% of the population is non-white, a figure that has increased 30% since the 2000 census, and is home to large immigrant and refugee populations. Nearly a third (27%) of residents are foreign-born. Median household income in Kent is 21% lower than the rest of King County.
Department(s) to be engaged in project planning
This project will involve collaboration with the Kent Downtown Partnership; private property and business owners; and a number of city departments and programs including: Economic and Community Development Department; Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department; Neighborhood Program; and possibly the Human Services Commission and Cultural Communities Board. The Kent Library is another potential partner.
Anticipated time commitment/length of engagement
We see our work with a creative consultant to develop a long-range arts and culture plan for downtown Kent as either a mid-term (6 months) or long-term (10-12 months) arrangement. There is a great deal happening in Kent in terms of on-going economic development and various projects to revitalize downtown, and there are a large number of stakeholders to include in the development of a successful plan. The creative consultant will work within a structure of both informal community engagement and more formal organizational meeting schedules that will likely require at least a mid-term commitment.
Area(s) of interest or project focus
The Kent Arts Commission and Kent Downtown Partnership hope to harness the increased interest in using arts and culture to revitalize downtown Kent. A related piece of this opportunity will be considering how to employ arts and culture to tie the disparate portions of downtown Kent together: At the south end sits historic downtown, and several blocks away, at the north end is Kent Station, a newer retail and entertainment development, and ShoWare Center, a 6,500 seat arena that is home to the Seattle Thunderbirds hockey team and large touring concerts. The blocks in between feature a public plaza, which is home to Kent’s Summer Concert Series, the Kent library, and two new apartment buildings.
Currently there are a variety of programs and projects in place in the downtown core, including portions of the City’s award-winning public art collection, the City’s Centennial Center Gallery, Kent Downtown Partnership/private art installations, the 3rd Thursday Art Walk, Kent Summer Concerts, library programs, and two new art studio spaces.
It is exciting to see so much happening in the way of arts and culture in downtown Kent, but the current approach is scattershot and not united by a common vision. The focus of working with a creative consultant will be to bring stakeholders together to develop a unified vision and an actionable plan for using art and culture to transform downtown Kent into the heart of our diverse community.