Artists Laying Groundwork Toward Community Purchase Of Former INS Building, Now Home To 100-Plus Studios

Grace Gorenflo
The Seattle Times

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) As Grace Gorenflo reports, in Seattle, “Tenants formed Friends of Inscape last year, a working group building a community of immigrant, neighborhood and artist stakeholders that would eventually form a nonprofit to raise money to purchase the property. The effort has garnered support from the city of Seattle, King County and others.”


For Kirsten Mohan, “art is salvation.” Since her husband passed away, the photographer and single mother of two has dedicated herself to growing her business and her craft.

In 2021, after a decade of hard work, she was able to sign a lease for a studio at Inscape Arts, which bills itself as Seattle’s largest arts and culture enclave. Soon after moving in, Mohan said she was disappointed to hear that the historic, 76,600-square-foot building, located in Seattle’s Chinatown International District, was in danger of becoming a redevelopment opportunity.

“It’s the largest arts building in the city — it’s the only one with so much cultural and historical significance — and it just would be such a tragedy if this was lost to both the arts community and the community at large,” Mohan said.

At a time when Seattle rent prices are skyrocketing and artists who have been hit hard by the pandemic are looking to recover, Inscape Arts’ building owners are looking to sell, a decision that risks the loss of more than 100 artist studios and possible erasure of the 91-year-old former Immigration and Naturalization Service building’s complicated history as a detention and processing center.

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