SEQUIM — One of the most visible spots in Sequim is being eyed for a makeover unlike any before in the city.
Leaders with the city’s arts, parks and public works departments look to redesign Centennial Place — the lot on the northeast corner at the Washington Street/Sequim Avenue intersection — with public input over the next two years.
Sequim’s arts coordinator Aurora Lagattuta said the two-year project “Sequim Understory” follows a process called “Creative Placemaking,” the use of creative strategies for equitable community planning and development.
It looks at the nouns, such as the objects in an area, i.e. permanent tree and/or water fountain, along with the verbs, such as “how do you want to feel” and “what do you want to do here,” she said.
“There are a lot of different stories and perspectives of Sequim,” Lagattuta said.
“(The project) will say something about our city and we’re hoping we can at least connect some dots from where we’ve been and where we want to be.”
Centennial Place, Sequim Public Works Director Matt Klontz said, is “a blank slate.”
He said, “It’s for the community of Sequim to get to enjoy when done and it’s so important they’re included.”
Developing the site through “Creative Placemaking,” Lagattuta said, will include community surveys and artistic outreach.
This spring, surveys will be mailed out, go online and may be available at events such as the Sequim Farmers Market through the summer, asking objective and subjective questions about the corner space, she said.
The second aspect seeks two North Olympic Peninsula-area artists with a background or interest in community engagement to propose ways to reach out to the community on the identity of Sequim.
Applicants will submit proposals to the City Arts Advisory Commission (CAAC) on how they’ll engage with the community, illustrate, and answer the question, “Who is Sequim to you?”
Each artist also will create a final artwork using community responses in any form — i.e. painting, song, poem, etc. — and will be shared with the public later this year.
The deadline to apply is Monday, March 15. More information is at sequimcityarts.com/understory.
Each artist and/or group receives a $1,000 stipend for art expenses.
Lagattuta said artists aren’t involved in the actual redesign of the corner space but they “help us create a better conversation about Sequim.”
She said, “We feel people will have more candid conversations with them than city staff.”
The final art projects are “another way for the public to see their feedback and not just in data because data can be polarizing,” Lagattuta said.
“An artist can be more fluid and subjective and share common feelings and common ideas.”
By late fall, city staff and stakeholders will look at surveys and the artists’ feedback.
“We’ll look at commonalities and see how we can relate this to an environment,” Lagattuta said.
From there, program organizers will create about 10 options for Sequim city council to consider. If approved, city staff and stakeholders will send the options back out to the public in 2022 to consider.
“From that we’ll start strategically planning how we can make it work in the budget,” Lagattuta said.
“Our greater hope is that this starts to serve a greater way to plan for parks, facilities and more.”
City staff created Sequim Understory thinking realistically about the project that in the past it either gets ignored or receives a band-aid, Lagattuta said.
“So we decided, why not use the year and if we put energy and attention to it we can usually find ways to fund it,” she said.
“Plus, inclusion and real conversations take time. We want to take enough time to get information out there.”
City councilor Brandon Janisse initiated discussions at a council meeting for redesigning Centennial Place, land purchased by the city in its centennial year in 2013.
Lagattuta participated in a national “Creative Placemaking” program via an educational grant that led to broader discussions on the project, she said.
Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at [email protected].