ArtSEA: Seattle’s New Arte Noir Highlights Black Artists

The handwriting on each Post-It announced what was soon to be loaded into this shop dedicated to black makers: accessories, skincare, scarves, clutches, apothecary items, bracelets, books and more.


ArtSEA: Notes on Northwest Culture is Crosscut’s weekly arts and culture newsletter.


The specialized store started with the Arte Noir newsletter, launched a little over a year ago, and is about to make its big reveal with a festive party on September 17 (12 p.m. to 6 p.m.). The event coincides (no coincidence) with Wa Na WariThe second annual “Walk the Block” art walk (September 17, 2-6 p.m.), a ticketed fundraiser featuring a host of black performers, dancers and live music.

“We are 95% there”, founder of Arte Noir Viviane Phillips said, as she showed me around the high-ceilinged space. “But we still don’t really know how to make the lights work.” She laughed and showed me a mystifying panel of 24 individual controls.

Located at 23rd and Union, on the ground floor of Town center square development, Arte Noir stands among many new public works by black artists. One of them is visible from the windows: Yegizaw “Yeggy” Michaelpermanent installation of visual rhythm. This abstract timeline of the Central District is rendered in 200 wooden slats – brightly painted and carved with Eritrean symbols – and hangs from the building facade like a peacock fringe.

Inside, the vibe is crisp and modern, with a long stretch of floor-to-ceiling windows and elegant blond-wood display cases. Executive Director Jazmyn Scott was also on the scene (“Oh, I’m still here,” she said), making final furniture arrangements and writing a few of her sticky notes. She still wasn’t sure which two new yellow chairs the guest services manager Marcus Mitchell was unpacking from the packaging. Opposite the room, the Customer Service Associate Cole Abram was busy painting a design in the entrance vestibule.

Luz W. German