Nathan Marion: No Religion, No Profit, No Problem

Fremont Abbey Arts Center's director brings art to one-time house of God.

Enlighten us as to what it is you do at the Abbey.

I manage the varying uses of this old 1914 church building in Upper Fremont that we are slowly and painfully renovating. I also curate some events here and around town, such as the Round, which has three to six musicians sitting onstage together. Live painters are working on large canvases, and in between a round of songs, Seattle Poetry Slam and Youth Speaks poets perform.

How did you become involved at the Abbey?

When I heard they wanted the building to actually be managed by a nonreligious, nonprofit arts organization, I thought that was an amazing idea. I moved my office into the building around August 2005.

Which aspect of the job do you enjoy the most?

When I get to see an event come together smoothly with volunteers, artists, and audiences of all age ranges having their eyes opened a bit more...that makes all the late nights worthwhile.

Any frustrations?

The question of "Is it a church?" has become rather humorous to us by now. I think our programming shows that we are all about arts and community, not any religious agendas. The fact that I'm not a member of the church and don't work for the church seems to help people understand. The bottom line is, we have all sorts of artistic expression in here, and for anyone who knows slam poets or the musicians we've had...they can tell you this sure ain't no church!

How do you see the Abbey fitting in to the Seattle music community?

I think it fits in a spot where not many for-profit venues are able to, since they have to sell alcohol to stay in business. People tell us the space feels different than most clubs or bars. We'd love to have a cafe on the ground level someday.

What sets events at the Abbey apart from other shows/events in the city?

Well, I'm told that most people haven't really seen an ongoing event like the Round. I was getting a little bored with one music show after another and really wanted to see something that was mixing art forms and bringing people together of various ethnicities, ages, neighborhoods, belief systems, etc. Since we can offer that opportunity for developing and mature artists, I think we are in a good position. Hopefully more funding will come in so we can continue to expand our programs.

What are some favorite events that you've put together?

Round 25 in June with Damien Jurado, J. Tillman, Jenna [of] Troubletown, and [poet] Danny Sherrard was really special for me. I really connected with Damien's music while working in Haiti a few years back. Seeing teens that never painted live before come in super nervous and then be so encouraged and inspired by the end of the night is one of my favorite things here. It's also great to see more mature folks like Mark Pickerel come in tired and bored with normal bar shows and leave the Arts Center with a fresh smile.

Top five records/books/artists/poets of all time.

Sigur Rós, Agaetis Byrjun.

Feist, Open Season.

John Vanderslice, Pixel Revolt.

Danny Sherrard, local poet., a satire by Isaac Marion.

A weekly peek behind the curtain of the Emerald City music world, Behind the Scene sheds light on folks you won't see onstage, but who make it all happen.

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