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Clarion West Workshop Needs New Home

Clarion West has a long history of partnering with universities and organizations in the Seattle area to house the Six-Week Workshop. As we’ve honed in on what our students need for their workshop experience and focused on affordability, equity, and accessibility, the number of potential partners has narrowed. Even before the pandemic, we couldn’t secure a long-term agreement for housing.

Since 2020, several of our area housing partners have closed or consolidated. Dormitory housing has gotten even more expensive. After an exhaustive search, the organization is still unable to find a housing partner. We have a deadline of December 16, 2022, for confirming a location or deciding to run a virtual workshop in 2023. 

What can you do to help?

  • Do you know anyone who manages student housing or hospitality accommodations in the greater Seattle area? We’d love to make some deeper connections!
  • We are actively seeking partnerships with other nonprofit organizations in the greater Seattle area with similar missions. Please reach out if you are interested in partnerships or looking for similar housing opportunities. 
  • Do you know a developer or city planner who is looking to anchor a new project with a core nonprofit tenant? Please connect us! 
  • Are you an investor who is interested in student housing in the University District? The Upsilon House is for sale and is already ADA compliant! We’d love to be your long-term summer tennant. 
  • Donations to the Clarion West general fund help the organization build capacity toward a future capital campaign. Please consider making a donation in any amount.   
  • If you have any further ideas or want to help in our search, please contact Marnee Chua at director@clarionwest.org

Due to the ongoing nature of this search, applications for the 2023 Six-Week Workshop will open January 4, 2023.

Keep reading to get a comprehensive idea of what we’re looking for and the challenges we’ve identified.

Accessibility in Cost, ADA Requirements, and Location

The board and staff are committed to finding an appropriate housing partner that can rent to the organization within our budget, is located near public transit, and is either already ADA accessible or is willing to partner with Clarion West to update to accessible accommodations. 

At a minimum, a workshop location needs to meet the following criteria: 

  • Accommodations for 19–20 guests to have their own bedrooms. A mix of shared and private bathrooms is preferred; 
  • One or more common areas accessible to everyone for group meetings, study, and relaxation; 
  • A classroom large enough for 22–23 people to sit comfortably around a table — within easy walking distance of student housing; 
  • A common dining area and kitchen or dining hall large enough for up to 25 people, within easy walking distance of student housing; 
  • Easy access to city-wide transit; 
  • Walkable neighborhood with accommodations (a short walk to groceries, pharmacies, coffee shops, and other conveniences); 
  • If facilities are not already ADA accessible, Clarion West has funds for accessible build-out and is interested in long-term partners that will work with us to build fully accessible facilities.

The Pandemic

The last few years have been challenging for our residential programs, to say the least. We welcomed the Six-Week Workshop back to accessible housing in Seattle this summer after a pause in 2020 and a virtual workshop in 2021. We were hopeful that we’d put down roots and form a partnership this year that would see us through the near future, but unfortunately, we are still looking for a housing option that we can sustain financially and that fits all our needs. 

As a result, the board of directors is considering running a virtual workshop in 2023 to recover from the costs of the 2022 workshop and to spend more time seeking affordable and accessible housing in Seattle. 

Moving Forward

Our 2021 virtual workshop was a historic undertaking for the organization but proved to be just as effective as our in-person workshop at connecting students and instructors, as well as for creating amazing friendships and stories. There are a lot of benefits to running the Six-Week Workshop online, including offering students (and instructors) in countries outside of the U.S. easier access to the Six-Week experience. For example, there’s no need to apply for a visa (which has become even more difficult in some countries) or purchase an international flight.

We know that going virtual isn’t ideal for everyone: the Six-Week Workshop structure wasn’t designed to be held online. It is challenging even when everyone can be together, available at all hours to support and encourage each other. The virtual experience can be more exhausting and more difficult to navigate for many. However, the workshop team now has a lot of experience at managing alternative workshop formats and knows how to design excellent virtual experiences and classrooms. The organization feels confident this format delivers a successful Six-Week experience, and it is an effective alternative when it is not feasible or safe to facilitate an in-person workshop.

Help us locate a future home for Clarion West and envision future programs more accessible to all: 

In 2017, the Clarion West board, staff, and volunteers came together for a strategic planning retreat that focused heavily on three main themes: affordability, equity, and accessibility. Over the next few years, the organization made significant strides in working with accessible partners and continues to seek scholarship donors and other ways to keep the tuition costs down. 

While we are excited to explore virtual workshop variations that can be offered throughout the year, we are determined to keep our in-person summer workshop moving forward. Clarion West isn’t (yet) in a position to buy property in Seattle, however, we continue to look for partners that can help secure a home for the Six-Week Workshop. We would love to make more connections and partnerships in the community. If you have an idea, or can offer help with this process, please reach out to Marnee Chua at director@clarionwest.org.

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