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GAS TO GRASS Written by RACHEL GALLAHER
Mini Mart City Park is the brainchild of Seattle-based arts triumvirate SuttonBeresCuller, which is remaking a former gas station lot into a pocket park and community center.
graymag . com
SUTTONBERESCULLER, 2014; RENDERING COURTESY GOCSTUDIO
WOULD YOU PAY $25 FOR A CAN OF TOXIC DIRT SCRAPED OFF A VACANT LOT?
You might if it helped to revive an urban landscape long left for dead, which is what Seattle-based arts collective SuttonBeresCuller wants to do. They devised the unconventional fundraising technique in early 2015 to bring awareness to their latest project: Mini Mart City Park, a proposed community arts center and green space in the industrial Georgetown neighborhood. Selling the handsomely packaged cans of dirt is more than a stunt, of course. “It lets people know that they are involved, that they are stewards of the land and stakeholders in the cleanup of this site,” says John Sutton, who has been working on the concept with longtime artist-collaborators Ben Beres and Zac Culler for more than a decade. In 2008, the trio secured the brownfield site in south Georgetown but had to level the existing gas station due to contamination and other issues. Eight years of bureaucratic hoops and massive environmental remediation ensued before they enlisted local architecture firm goCstudio to help design the project. Mini Mart City Park will feature a 1,100-square-foot building to host classes, events, and art shows, as well as a public park for the underserved neighborhood. The team has raised $500,000 to date, mostly from grants (plus those dirt cans), and construction is projected to start in spring 2017. “From the early stages of the design process, we’ve always referenced the typology of old filling stations,” says architect and goCstudio cofounder Jon Gentry, who points out how welcoming their form could be. “Their large overhangs invite you in. So this structure feels familiar, but it has visual cues that tell you something unique is happening here.” h