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Woman standing in Arte Noir Gallery interior in Seattle, movable white wall panels hang art in room with floor to ceiling windows, black ceiling

Arte Noir: A Home to Honor the Black Creative Community

Erica Loynd

Arte Noir, a local non-profit dedicated to showcasing and uplifting Black art, artists, and culture, began as a digital publication, but it quickly expanded to a vision for physical space, stability, opportunity, and training to serve the needs of the displaced Black creative community. And that vision was realized in the brick-and-mortar storefront space in Seattle’s Central District neighborhood.

Small but Mighty Space

Collaborating with a client team of community leaders, this small but mighty 3,200-SF multi-use space was designed for artists to display their work and gather with neighbors and creators in a place intentionally built for them. The space shines a light on the makers, thinkers, and doers who are innovating in their creative fields. The team identified four key features to define the space—flexibility, multi-functionality, future expansion, and focus on community.

Designed for Flexibility

The space features custom-designed furnishings and wall systems all built with the ability to move, transform, and flex with the needs of the gallery over time. An overhead grid houses five-foot wall sections that can move and rotate to accommodate a variety of spaces and configurations based on the art installation needs. All wall sections also can be pulled back to the outer walls of the main Gallery space, opening the room for large gatherings, workshops, or special events. The custom cabinetry also offers flexibility for use as storage or as display space. The entry ramp includes an integrated display case drawing visitors down into the retail space from the street level.

Multi-functional for Artists and the Community

Although the Gallery is small compared to larger museum spaces, the unique opportunities for artists and the community to engage together was a creative exercise in space planning for multi-functional uses. The main 1,000-SF gallery display space, is home to the Onyx Fine Arts Collective which is the only place in Seattle that exclusively showcases Black visual artists. This gives increased opportunities to sell the work of over 400 artists on the Onyx roster. Additionally, a 600-SF retail space allows artists to produce income from their work with 100% of proceeds going directly to the artists, commission free. Additionally, cozy, welcoming shared spaces are available for individuals to sit and read a book to a child, or meditate on nearby art pieces.

Future Expansion Opportunities

Future expansion plans include space for a recording studio and a maker space, bringing more opportunity for a full expression of the arts to the community. By design, all areas, including these future spaces will naturally flows from one into another creating a meaningful, integrated setting.

An Emphasis on Community

When this building, originally slated as a large-scale drug store, became available, it created an opportunity for the developer and neighborhood to invite Arte Noir to make the location their permanent home. The exterior of the building is the first point of welcome with wall-sized murals by Black artists telling the story of important Black leaders in the arts and the local district. Interior finishes for the gallery create a backdrop for art and people with warm woods and textiles to frame the focus and add a natural comfort—a nod to the industrial yet homey roots of the neighborhood. Windows facing the courtyard and neighboring retail spaces offer views into the gallery from the street.

Arte Noir impacts and restores the Black creative community. It honors those who live in the Seattle Central District as a beacon of light celebrating the gift of art and a place to call home for years to come.

Read about another museum we’ve designed that engages its community.

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Erica Loynd
Contact me to start a conversation ➔ Erica Loynd, Northwest Region Leader

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