Karen True is the Director of Business Development and Community Engagement for the Alliance for Pioneer Square. In our neighborhood, her approach to business development is the secret sauce. Part retail recruitment, part matchmaker, full-time community builder.
In 2009, Nordo launched a hybrid of the pop-up restaurant and underground theater. Each show, performed at venues all across the Seattle area, ran for 6-8 weeks. In 2015, The Culinarium at Nordo opened in historic Pioneer Square. Committed to the intersection between Art, Performance, and Cuisine, the Culinarium at Nordo provides a playground for the imagination where flavors and stories come alive in an intimate, immersive setting. The Culinarium is open year round with two “Main Stage Shows” and other exciting programs that are a playground for other artists and chefs to come together, creating an unparalleled arts experience the best dinner theater in Seattle. Awarded the Seattle Times’ prestigious Footlight Award for Excellence in Theater six years in a row, Nordo has become a Seattle institution. Beneath The Culinarium, is The Knife Room – a subterranean multi-use arts venue in the heart of Pioneer Square where writers, musicians, thinkers, and craftspeople share their gifts with our community.
Karen is a big proponent of Café Nordo and the Knife Room. “It is just such a unique concept,” Karen observes, “their show are wild, with the most bizarre and effective concepts.” Karen’s comments speak to the diversity of programming at both Café Nordo and The Knife Room. Recently, Café Nordo presented a dinner-theater treatment of Tom Robbins’ Jitterbug Perfume. This month, they present The Champagne Widow, written by Opal Peachy and directed by Billie Wildrick. “Café Nordo has really connected the neighborhood together, not only through their programming but by also hosting the Pioneer Square Resident’s Council meetings,” says Karen. Next month, Café Nordo is hosting “7th and Jackson,” which will be particularly interesting to all intrigued by Pioneer Square, the Chinatown-International District, and 1940’s history.
Karen this Week:
This week, Karen is excited for the opening of the application period for the Pioneer Square Business Improvement Area (BIA) Inspiration Fund. 2019 marks the second year of the Pioneer Square BIA Inspiration Fund. The Pioneer Square Business Improvement Area (BIA) saw success in the 2018 Inspiration Fund, granting a total of $10,000 in matches to support two projects. This year, the BIA is increasing the matching fund to $20,000, matching volunteer hours and/or funding, for community members to implement projects and programs offering a positive impact in the Pioneer Square neighborhood. Project goals include celebrating neighborhood diversity, benefiting the community, and neighborhood storytelling. The BIA encourages applicants to propose their best and most creative ideas. Potential projects might include work around murals, art, public area improvements, cleanup, experiences, or events. Ratepayers, people who work, live, or play in the neighborhood, and those with a significant connection to Pioneer Square are welcome to apply for the inspiration fund.
“I want people to think big about the possibilities for this opportunity,” Karen reflects on her ambitions for the potential Inspiration Fund applicants, “and for folks to consider ‘outside of the box’ ideas.” Karen envisions one option for a potential Inspiration Fund applicant to be highly collaborative and grassroots in nature. “I want neighbors to come together to scheme, plot, and plan together in hope that those conversations birth something truly special for the neighborhood,” says Karen. “Pioneer Square hosts some truly unique collectives- think about what they are doing at the Tashiro Kaplan Artists Lofts Building, the Good Arts Building, and the Seattle Office of Arts and Culture in King Street Station.”
In her role as Director of Business Development and Community Engagement, Karen in keenly aware of the eclectic group of businesses and business owners operating in Pioneer Square. “I love how special our neighborhood businesses are- for instance, consider Dry/Goods or Flatstick,” Karen states. “Those folks, amongst many others, have created successful business from incredibly distinctive ideas.” However the Inspiration Fund is not just for business owners, but for anyone seeking to make an impact in Pioneer Square. “We are asking community members- ‘how can we help you make your dreams come true?’” Karen poses. The Inspiration Fund is specifically designed to be as assessable as possible for folks in the neighborhood- with the flexibility built into the matching component of the fund. Karen closes with, “the Inspiration Fund is an open call to our neighbors to ideate on concepts no one else has though of before- and to me, that’s thrilling!”