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Dr. James & Janie Washington Cultural Center

Theme: Arts & Culture

The home of James and Janie Washington was the family’s spiritual and artistic center and stands today as a testament to the impact of Black art in Seattle.

James and Janie Washington relocated to Bremerton, Washington, from Arkansas. The U.S.’s participation in World War II created new job opportunities on the West Coast, and both James and Janie found work in the naval shipyards. They found themselves more involved in religious and civic life in the Black community in Seattle than in Bremerton. The commute became tiresome, so they decided to settle in Seattle in 1946.

They purchased a Craftsman bungalow in the Central Area, a beautifully designed space that was conveniently located. Janie, after studying to become a nurse, began her career in earnest in Seattle. James became a full-time artist, setting up his studio in the basement of their home. He was also an active freemason and activist with local chapters of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Both were devoted members of the Mount Zion Baptist Church congregation (see also the Mount Zion cultural waypoint on this tour).

James was a self-taught artist, and creating art was his first passion. He began drawing around the age of 12. In his late 20s, he began pursuing a career as an artist while working several other jobs. When he arrived in Washington, he was focused on painting. Then James added sculpture to his repertoire in the late 1940s. He eventually outgrew his basement workspace and had a separate studio built behind the house. Throughout his life, his work was showed at several galleries in the Seattle area, the Seattle Art Museum, and the Bellevue Arts Museum. He also received national commissions for paintings and sculptures.

In 1992, their Washington home received landmark status. Five years later, James and Janie established a foundation that would support their legacy of arts and service in the community. Today, the James and Janie Washington Cultural Center continues to honor the legacy of the Washingtons through an artist-in-residence program and changing exhibitions highlighting local artists.

Images

The Dr. James & Janie Washington Cultural Center.

Photo courtesy of Converge Media LLC.

The Dr. James & Janie Washington Cultural Center entrance and garden.

Photo courtesy of the Washington Foundation.

The Dr. James & Janie Washington Cultural Center sign.

Photo courtesy of Converge Media LLC.

James Washington, Jr. in his home studio, March 1967.

Photo courtesy of the University of Washington.

From left to right: Chinese artist Fay Chong, African-American artist James Washington, and Japanese-American artist John Matsudaira admiring an art piece by Kenjiro Nomura December 25, 1951.

Photo courtesy of the University of Washington.

James Washington, Jr., sculptor, March 1967.

Photo courtesy of the University of Washington.

Video

A short video exploring the life and work of James W. Washington, Jr., an important Seattle artist whose work is included in the Smithsonian art collection and whose activism for civil rights was a lifelong pursuit. Video courtesy of the Washington Foundation. Directed by Tim Detweiler.