Q&A with Jazmyn Scott, executive director of new Seattle Black arts space Arté Noir

When Jazmyn Scott became LANGSTON Seattle’s first employee back when the cultural nonprofit was just getting started in 2016, she said it felt like a full circle moment. A Seattle native, Scott’s first job as a teenager was at Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute, and for the last six years she has led LANGSTON’s programming and community partnerships. In May, Arté Noir announced that Scott was joining the new Central District Black arts and culture space as its executive director, looking to grow another Black-centered organization for the people of Seattle.

“The heart and soul of Arté Noir are its people; the organization exists to uplift Black artists, ”said board member Karinda Harris in a statement. What better person to lead an organization rooted in this purpose than someone who lives and breathes its mission? Jazmyn Scott is the answer. ”

In her new position, supported by an expanding board, new staff members and founder Vivian Phillips, Scott will be shaping Arté Noir’s decisions around the type of art and products that the organization wants to bring in, centering around finding work from Black creatives that truly represents Black art and culture.

In a conversation late last month, Scott spoke more about her decision to join Arté Noir and her vision for the organization’s place within the Seattle community, as the nonprofit that first launched as a digital magazine in 2021 sets down roots in its new permanent location at Midtown Square at 23rd and Union. Its doors are scheduled to open sometime this fall.

What made Arté Noir feel like the right next step for you and your career?

Transitioning out of LANGSTON is definitely not easy. I learned so much and developed so much as a person and a lover of the arts in that space. It’s Black led and it’s centered in Blackness and that’s really a core of who I am. Living in Seattle, there’s not a whole lot of opportunities professionally where you can work in spaces that are centered in Blackness, and that are led by Black folks. So the whole idea and philosophy around what Arté Noir is and the development of it – the launch of the online component a year ago into this process of going into a physical space – it literally is the only other thing that I can see myself doing. It’s just been, honestly, a blessing that I’ve been put in positions to really do things that are connected to who I am as a person and close to my heart.

When you were looking into taking on this job, were there any programs or initiatives that you knew you wanted to do with Arté Noir?

A huge part of our model when it comes to the retail side of things is that as we work with artists and creatives and invite them to have their products sold in our space. We’re not doing something where it’s like a consignment model. We are not looking to make money off of artists. We’re looking to put money in the hands of Black artists and for them to feel like they’re being paid what they’re worth.

So a lot of what we’re doing is paying them upfront 100% of their wholesale cost. Instead of us determining what the items are and the quantities and giving them to us and then us taking a percentage and paying them back as items are sold, we’re determining what we want and we’re buying it up front.

So those artists do not have to wait. They do not have to play a guessing game about, ‘When is my stuff going to sell in this space?’ That’s our responsibility. We want these artists to know that we value what they do enough to pay them what they’s worth and not for them to feel like they’re being used. They put so much time, so much passion, so much effort into what they do, and it’s our responsibility to make sure they’re getting everything that they’s worth.

What makes the Central District feel like the perfect place for Arté Noir to host and create art?

We [at Arté Noir] are Seattle natives and we’s Seattle Central District natives and the Central District is Seattle’s historically Black neighborhood. There’s been a lot of energy behind, ‘How can we get Black people back into a neighborhood that feels really special to us and that, in many ways, people felt like they were kind of pushed out of through gentrification and whatnot?’ We’re trying to reverse that feeling of displacement.

Arté Noir at the Midtown Square building is a permanent home because our lease will turn into ownership by next year. It’s an example that we’re hoping to set about ownership and owning your own destiny in a community that we once did. We want to restore that feeling. Being able to be surrounded by some of the other Black businesses that are in and coming back to that community, it really – the Central District, and especially that kind of 23rd Avenue hub, is going to really be a hub for Black businesses, Black culture, Black arts.

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