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Storefront art installations: it's not just window dressing

KIRO Radio

Starting Thursday, vacant storefronts in Seattle are dressing up in artwork for the winter. The improvements aren't just for aesthetics, but economics.

The artwork is meant to draw visitors and businesses back to areas of Pioneer Square and the Chinatown-International District.

"Imagine walking down that dark rainy street and instead of seeing a bunch of dark storefronts you're seeing light on, with rehearsals going on in the spaces or beautiful pieces of art being displayed," says Ellen Whitlock Baker, "or you can walk into a retail store that's selling unique artwork."

Whitlock Baker is with the nonprofit arts group, Shunpike, which is working with the city of Seattle on the "Storefronts Seattle," program, to fill vacant windows with all kinds of art.

Shunpike's Andy Fife says similar programs have drawn new business to neighborhoods in New York, San Francisco, and even other cities in western Washington.

"In Tacoma, one of the first spaces that we found, we didn't even get a chance to put the artists in there because it attracted enough attention to that building that it filled up before the artists got to move in there."

He says Storefronts Seattle is a joint private-public program that costs about $11,000. The storefront space is donated.

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