Constellation & Co. moved into the 619 Western Artist's building in January of 2011 - 101 years after the building was built in Pioneer Square.
619 was built in 1910 during an economic boom after the Alaskan gold rush. The building was used as a multipurpose warehouse and was the site of light manufacturing. Fishing nets, coffee beans and tavern punch cards are a few of the products that have been stored & made on the premises. In the late 1970's, the first artists moved their studios into the building. Currently, more than 100 artists have studios in all six stories of this historic building. For more information on 619's history, please visit the official 619 site.
The first Thursday of every month, the 619 Building is open for the Pioneer Square Art Walk which brings crowds of art lovers to the neighborhood. The 619 building has long been considered the epicenter of this monthly event, with the largest concentration of artists' studios and gallery spaces in one building.
Every month, hundreds of people make the long trek up the 6 flights of stairs to the top of the building. And (since January) when they get there, they find us! Our print shop is located on the 6th floor of the 619 Building. During art walk nights, we open our studio to the public, operate the presses, and share our knowledge of printing and it's history with anyone who's interested! These last 6 months have been an absolute joy. The 619 building has been home to our little family of presses, and has witnessed us produce lots of new work (the best yet!). It's been a new era for us, and we feel all kinds of mushy feelings about our time in the building.
But here comes the really sad part. Due to structural problems that coincide with the construction of a traffic tunnel directly underneath the building, all of 619's artists will be evicted in March of 2012. UPDATE: We were notified today that the building will now be vacated on October 1st (in two months), and that art walk will no longer be allowed to take place in the building. We're still trying to get solid details on what's going on, but this is really sad news. And really stressful for us - it's not an easy process to find a new location and relocate a 1,000 lb. printing press - and now we have only 2 months to figure it out and do it. You can read a story about our October 1st eviction here. You can read news stories about the tunnel issue here, here, and here. It's still unclear about what will happen to the building once we're all out (the current options include restructuring or demolition), but 619's days of housing artists are more than likely over.
In honor of 619 and our time there, we've designed and printed this commemorative print, showing the six flights of stairs and our Chandler & Price platen press in its place at the top of them. There's something right about our presses being brought to 619. They're from the same era and have seen all of the same history. It's unlikely that our printing presses are the first that the building has seen - and it feels right for 619 to be home to them now. We'll be staying in the building until at least December (when our lease is up) ???. We have high hopes for our next location, and are making lots of exciting plans (like having a real window to the outside world and more than 150 sq. ft.!), but we will always remember 619 as the first place Constellation could really call home.
Our commemorative print was designed by in Adobe Illustrator (after lots of odd looking pencil sketches), carved into a large linoleum block and printed on our Chandler & Price proof press. The Stairs print is available for purchase on our Etsy store, as well as at our studio during first Thursday art walks. :(
This blog entry was written last week and updated on 7/20.