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Tuesday, April 1, 2014


Youngstown Cultural Arts Center -- photo by Denny Sternstein

Sometimes we need to be reminded of what great things people can accomplish when they work together toward a goal. I recently had the opportunity to interview David Bestock, director of the Youngstown Cultural Arts Center in Seattle's Delridge Neighborhood, for a feature article in the online journal Neighborhood Life. The story of how a grassroots effort manifested as this amazing community asset is an inspiration to neighborhoods across the Northwest and all of America, so I want to share it with you through my Good Life Northwest blog. 

By Candace Brown

As traffic rushes along busy Delridge Way in West Seattle, many drivers have no idea that a dominant brick building they pass symbolizes the power of vision, perseverance, and community spirit. A couple of decades ago it was nothing but an old, empty, and boarded up eyesore, a detriment, serving no purpose. Now, the beautifully renovated structure is home to the 18,000 square foot Youngstown Cultural Arts Center, a place vibrant with life since the day it opened in 2006. With an emphasis on serving youth, it offers enriching experiences, warm human connections, education, outreach, social services, housing, and more. The Center’s own website describes it best, as a place “… that incubates and inspires new arts participants, art-makers and organizations from our multicultural, intergenerational communities in order to engage in civic dialogue and meaningful community transformation.”

The surrounding area has always been working class and diverse, with the first non-native residentsmany from other states or countries—arriving in 1905. The promise of jobs at a steel mill drew workers to a new settlement called Youngstown, named after Youngstown, Ohio, because of the mill connection. Life was often tough. Workers’ children could not even attend school that first year. In 1906, the mill owners dedicated a room in a mill building to be used for education, and 70 children filled it on the first day it opened. Later, a wooden structure arose where the Youngstown Cultural Arts Center now stands. In 1917, the brick Youngstown School was built to replace the wooden structure, on the same site. In 1929, it gained an addition, and during the 1930s the name changed to the Frank B. Cooper Elementary School. However, that school closed in 1989 and would stand dormant for 16 years until some dedicated and farsighted people turned it into the wonderful asset it is today.

Youngstown Cultural Arts Center’s Director David Bestock shared with Neighborhood Life the inspiring story of how the Center came to be, how it serves, how it sustains itself, and why it is now the beating heart of a still diverse, still working class, but thriving community.

Candace Brown for Neighborhood Life: What forces came into play to save this building during those dark years of its existence and to create the Youngstown Cultural Arts Center?

Please click here to continue to Neighborhood Life to read the rest of the article and see the photos. 

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