Small World

Building blocks and tinkertoys

"It's stunning," marvels Matt Richter. "We looked at probably 15 or 20 buildings. . . . I'd only seen half [of this one] when I said, 'We'll take it.'"

Richter has been executive director of Consolidated Works since it opened in October '99, and you can practically hear him grinning over the phone at the mention of the company's just-announced new space. Its current digs—a "temporary" three-month fix that good fortune, and waylaid development plans, turned into two years—are coming down to make way for a "Terry Avenue Technology Court" shortly after Consolidated closes its Negative Space series this summer. Tinkertoys, of all construction metaphors, come to Richter's mind when he talks about what the upcoming capital campaign, the November opening, and the permanence of a five-year lease will bring to his innovative arts experiment.

"You've got that wooden hub, and right now we've got the five sticks," he explains, referring to the company's interlocking cinema, theater, lectures, visual arts, and music disciplines. "The most exciting thing about going into the new building is plugging more sticks into that model."

More is right. Though the 28,000 square feet at Boren and Republican (the old Ducky's Office Furniture) is approximately the size of the Terry building, what will be happening inside it is far bigger than even the laudable achievements the company has managed thus far. In addition to exploring dual use for every room, the notion of a caf鯢ar/gathering area is in the works, as are an expanded "cybercomponent" (Web art that will complement the other aesthetic offerings), a resource center (a CD, slide, and videotape bank operating on a local and national level), and additional art spaces.

Richter says the organization is only now experiencing the thrill of "realizing that we're not just building Consolidated Works. This place has an effect that reaches beyond just us." He's right, and he should be proud. Consolidated has been about aesthetic reach from the beginning, and the move will literally put it in the company of others longing to stretch: The artistic offices of eight nonprofits will also be calling the building home, including UMO Ensemble, House of Dames, One World Theatre, and the Fuse Foundation.

There is one expected innovation that Richter will be leaving to others. "We're also going to have Seattle's only unisex bathroom," he laughs. "Personally, I will not be able to use it."

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