Say hello to the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute

LHPAI_Logo_300dpiAmong the changes coming to 17th and Yesler’s Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center is a new name: The Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute.

As we reported previously, members of the city government have voiced concerns that the LHPAC needs to generate more of its own operating expenses. The mayor, meanwhile, moved the organization from the Parks Department to the Office of Cultural Affairs.

Since reopening after years of rehab work, the organization has been restructuring, and the new name is part of that.

The LHPAI sent out this press release today:

Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute (LHPAI) has undergone serious development over the last several months, adopting a new name, moving departments within the city and now launching a new website ( At the same time, an action committee has been formed around the organization. All of this follows a proposal from Seattle Mayor McGinn to support the organization into the future.

During the 2013-2014 city budget approval process, LHPAI was transferred from Seattle Parks to the Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs. The addition of LHPAI as a program of the Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs aligns with the Office’s mission and fits the purview of the Admission Tax to fund arts-related programs and keep artists living, working and growing in Seattle. The plan resulted from conversations with LHPAI staff, arts commissioners and other arts leaders.

“We’re pleased to welcome the Langston Institute and their staff to our office,” said Randy Engstrom, Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs interim director. “The transfer makes sense on paper, but more importantly, it’s a strong working relationship for both of our organizations.”

One of the first actions of the Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs was to create a new website around the Institute’s educational programming, artist opportunities performances and rental availability at These resources were not previously available only and are expected to help promote the Institute’s earned income opportunities and general access to information.

Earlier this month, the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center changed one key word of their name and became the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute (LHPAI). In changing its name, the Institute reaffirms its mission as a keeper of cultural wealth reflecting the artistic experiences of African Americans and others from the Diaspora. At the same time, it separates the organization from its history as a community center versus a curated performing arts organization.

“This new name reflects our evolving and expanded role in the broader arts community,” says LHPAI executive director Royal Alley-Barnes. “We are not just a presenter of performances. We also serve as educators and incubators for local grassroots talent. This name reflects that whole mission.”

The Legislative Intent (SLI) accompanying the transfer included a planning process to create a mechanism for the Institute’s long-term financial support and sustainability. To this end, an ad hoc LHPAI Action Committee has been formed, under the leadership of co-chairs Dorothy H. Mann, Ph.D., community arts activist and former Seattle Arts Commissioner including two terms as chair; and current Seattle Arts Commissioner Terri Hiroshima, director of marketing and external affairs at

The role of the committee is to review completed studies, reports and recommendations giving particular attention to efforts aimed at helping LHPAI become a free-standing community based performing arts organization. The committee will consider the most appropriate ways to utilize city resources to address a long-term plan for sustainability.

LHPAI celebrates, nurtures, presents and preserves African American and Diaspora performing arts, cultural wealth and iconic legacies. Named for the prolific African American artist Langston Hughes, LHPAI represents the pluralism of local, national and global Black people in the media platforms of film, dance, theater and music.

LHPAI is housed in what was formerly the Jewish synagogue of Chevra Bikur Cholim in the Central District at 104 17th Ave. S, 98144. The building is listed in the National Registry of Historic Places as a historical landmark. The Institute was established in 1969 to provide a cultural institution in Seattle’s Central District area.

The Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs supports the health and vitality of our city by providing access to arts and culture, advancing the role of the arts in our community, and advocating for issues that affect the entire cultural community. The 16-member Seattle Arts Commission, citizen volunteers appointed by the mayor and City Council, supports the city agency.

3 thoughts on “Say hello to the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute

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