When the Pratt Fine Arts Center received the Mayor’s Arts Award this week, the City of Seattle wasn’t just celebrating great art; it was also celebrating civic investment.
Started by the Seattle Park Department in 1976, and named after the assassinated executive director of the Seattle Urban League, Edwin T. Pratt, the Center was created to provide skilled training in the visual arts to residents of one of Seattle’s most economically depressed and ethnically diverse neighborhood. Now serving more than 3,500 students annually through its classes, lectures and studio programs, Pratt has become a model for what investment in the arts can do for a community.
Pratt is not, itself, a work of fine art. Located in the Central District, the institution has been cobbled together from an asymmetry of three buildings—a former truck garage, a loading dock and a Hostess factory. Within these buildings, though, are the classrooms, workshops and studios where amateurs and professionals alike have created very whole works of art for the last thirty-five years, developing their own artistic sensibility while helping to build their community.
Throughout its history, the Center has invited internationally renown artists to teach classes in jewelry-making, printmaking, painting, drawing, sculpture and glass-making, resulting in more fine, and diverse, works of art in the city’s galleries and more fine artists emerging from the Central District.