This site in Ballard dates to 1928 and although the property (which includes residences on either side) belongs to the Church of Nazarene its congregation has long since moved.
At Large in Ballard: Homesteading
By Peggy Sturdivant
Last spring a local writer asked if there was a space in Ballard similar to Hugo House; a writer’s center on Capitol Hill that provides classes, workshops and overall support for writers. She also said, “If nothing exists, then maybe we can talk about creating such a thing?”
She has powerful ideas. A few months ago I saw a notice about a Hugo House writing class being offered by Ross McMeekin, a writer who happens to live in Ballard. The venue was listed as Ballard Homestead. Clever, I thought, assuming he was teaching in his home.
It was after I saw a second reference to Ballard Homestead that I realized it might not be McMeekin’s house. Then I progressed from research to shock in learning that a community venue curated by Abbey Arts was about to launch practically underneath my nose. The building belongs to the Church of Nazarene and it’s located on Jones Ave. NW just one block north of NW 65th. When I found it I just stood in front and gaped.
On March 7, 2015 the Ballard Homestead will have its official opening as a non-profit arts venue, providing a space for classes, performances, parties, etc. However, it’s not a “Hugo House Northwest.” Its model is Fremont Abbey, also run by Abbey Arts, which has programs and rental space in another former church.
This site in Ballard dates to 1928 and although the property (which includes residences on either side) belongs to the Church of Nazarene its congregation has long since moved. Local church members began to explore best uses for the building. As Brian Wardlaw, Crown Hill resident, former pastor, and now building steward, told me, “We couldn’t give the property to the neighbors, but we wanted to find a way to give back.”
As with any venue located on a residential street there have been some tensions over the years. So Wardlaw did a lot of listening for starters. In addition to concerns about traffic and noise he heard, “How do we keep it from becoming condos?”
Aware of other former repurposed churches the workgroup consulted with Nathan Marion, Creative Director of Fremont Abbey whose side business, Lonely Buildings, helps “renovate and revive old lonely places into vibrant community spaces.” Although Wardlaw hadn’t contacted Marion toward that end they realized the Church of Nazarene site would be a good match for an expansion of Abbey Arts. As a non-profit they try to cover operating expenses while creating an arts space that also fosters community.
The denomination was able to put some funds plus a matching grant toward renovations. With income from the rental homes on either side they have been upgrading the building. It now has improved plumbing and electrical, with acoustical upgrades in process.
Even before its official opening people have been finding out about the space. Hugo House reached out to them. They’ve had a bluegrass concert, additional rentals…a group still meets in the downstairs for Sunday potlucks and spiritual conversations. Almost all the curated events will be geared for all ages. The opening night event will include an “Early Show” concert and open house from 4-6 p.m. with tours, art making and games. From 7-9 p.m. there will be acoustic music and arts performances.
Through their Arts Connect program Abbey Arts provides free tickets to Veterans, non-profit workers and low income families. Examples of their programming in Seattle includes live storytelling (commonly called MOTH), open arts microphone and music programs. They are styling the downstairs as a living room, with games like foosball and pool shuffle ball. All the spaces are available for rentals, handled by Abbey Arts. They offer 50% off their rates to non-profits.
As for the name, Brian Wardlaw said they tried out various names for months, and even though the site was built as a church Ballard Homestead came to seem just right. There’s a rain garden, cisterns, space for picnics, a future garden and residences on either side. There will be writers, storytellers, musicians, all stepping up to the former altar. It’s definitely not condos.
Ballard Homestead 6541 Jones Ave NW. http://www.ballardhomestead.org/