Off an old industrial alleyway in Georgetown something new is just beginning. Seattle dance fixtures Dayna Hanson and Peggy Piacenza, along with tech/lighting wiz Dave Proscia, are establishing a brand-new dance space housed in what was once the McKinnon Furniture factory. The 2,000 square foot rehearsal and performance space, named Base, is part of an enclave of arts spaces developed by Sam Farrazaino of Equinox Studios, which has been located across the alley since 2006. Equinox is now expanding into the former factory—lovingly carving the cavernous building into studios and creative workspaces. Natural light illuminates original wood ceilings and tall white walls through windows that have just been punched into the building. While the full Equinox build out is still underway, Base is in its very final construction phase. In fact, rehearsals have already begun.
Dylan Ward is the first artist to be in residency in the new space. “The four-week residency is our signature program,” Hanson explains. “Invited artists get two weeks of 40-hour access to the space and two weeks of exclusive access, during which they can install themselves thoroughly, build a set, do what they want. They have access to Dave’s technical consultation and can perform their work.” Generous technical residencies are the main feature of Base’s mission, something the three founders experienced while in process with Gloria’s Cause at On the Boards in 2010. It’s an often necessary but hard-to-come-by resource for artists. As of right now, the three Base founders are hand-picking the residency recipients. Jessica Jobaris will receive the second residency this fall.
The three founders are excited about supporting the community through the space, but of course a big reason for Base is to have a home for their own processes. Each of the three will also get a residency in the coming year. After piecing space rentals together for Piacenza’s last full scale project, Touch Me Here, she thought, “If I’m going to continue working, I’ve got to have a space—a home,” and in early 2015 she started looking.
Learning about the impetus for creating this new space is a bit of a history lesson. Hanson and Piacenza met through D-9 Dance Collective in 1992, and they’ve been working together ever since. Dave Proscia joined a decade later as technical director and lighting designer, occasionally also stepping into performance and sound design roles. Piacenza tells me she’s been involved in running a number of spaces over the years, first Grand Central (which was lost after the 2001 Nisqually earthquake) and then she helped organize Red in Pioneer Square along with Seattle dance figures such as Laura Curry, Tonya Lockyer, Sheri Cohen, and Vanessa Dewolf. She knows the value of spaces. “I have this memory of being in Oddfellows with Maureen Whiting before it was even Velocity—that building was so important for the arts scene,” she recalls.
The Oddfellows building, before it was primarily a retail and restaurant space, housed multiple arts organizations including Velocity Dance Center, which moved to its current location in 2010. The attraction of a dedicated arts space is a big draw for the Base owners. Hanson explains, “Seattle has gotten so expensive that to create a home that we could share with the community seemed to require a for-profit element, like a bar, to support the mission. We couldn’t envision ourselves undertaking that. When we discovered that Sam Farrazaino was expanding Equinox and could offer us affordable space, we felt we were facing a one-time opportunity.”
Base has been built through close collaboration with Equinox, ensuring that the space fit Hanson and Piacenza’s needs. The space is open and versatile; it can be arranged for performances as the artist pleases. Its default state is white and bright, but they are planning on purchasing floor-to-ceiling black curtains and installing black marley on the sprung floor. Flexible risers are also in the works to accommodate up to 99 audience members. When asked what she sees the space being used for, whether it be events, workshops, or rehearsals, Piacenza replies, “There’s the potential for this to turn into anything.” She acknowledges that after they’re fully up and running they’ll need to re-evaluate what works and what doesn’t. Right now they are planning on offering subsidized hourly rentals that are open to the community, as well as rental space for events and performances.
These are lofty goals, and, while Base is well on its way, building out a brand new space with a full theatrical light and sound system doesn’t come cheap. To help offset the costs, Base is running an Indiegogo campaign that is just about halfway from their funding goal. Want to get inspired to donate? You can check out the space yourself at the soft opening party on Sunday, August 21, at 5 pm.
“My personal hope is that Base centralizes art-making in my life and allows me to expand my role as a mentor and supporter of artists,” says Hanson. “As the city keeps growing, neighborhoods like Georgetown will continue to feel closer and closer. We see Base as a south end center for dance and performance that complements, rather than duplicates, what other organizations offer. In a sense we’re reasserting an ethos that has long characterized Seattle, but which feels endangered at the moment: This is a place where you can take chances and pursue your vision.”