Go with the flow: Downtown Olympia Culture


Paul Medrud, Editor

Downtown Olympia, since 1859 it has been a hub of art and music for the South Puget Sound region, but what do we really know about Olympia? What do the people of Olympia have to say about the town they live in, the issues they face and the culture of the town? What makes Olympia unique compared to towns such as Seattle or Tacoma? The only way to truly answer this question is to go and ask those people and find out the secrets and emotions of the people of Olympia


What makes Olympia unique is that it’s a scene for more obscure interests, as Rainy Day Records Co-Owner Adam Hardaway said: “For at least a couple of decades, Olympia was an affordable place where artists and people without higher financial aspirations or means could live and pursue their goals.” Popular music scenes have started in Olympia, as Famous singer Kurt Kobain played in Olympia from 1989 to 1991, and it’s not just music. Currently, from Gallery Boom Owner Christine Malek brings up “At Gallery Boom it’s all local artists from the South Sound area, equalling around 140 artists of all ages and skills” Many have also attributed the appreciation of more obscure interests to Olympia’s more progressive nature, as De Colores Books Manager Chris Bailey mentions that “Coming from a more rural area, the priorities here are put forward and talked about more than where I used to live” The people who live in Olympia are certainly unique, considering the older people who were raised on the more Indie scene or the people coming down from Seattle, there’s a lot to go around. Olyphant Employee Tiger notes “Especially when it comes to downtown Olympia, you can get to know the people that you’re with and your neighbors who live next door or above you, and when it comes to working downtown you definitely see the people that come in and out during different periods of art in the town and the styles that change and develop” Malek even brings this up, contributing “Olympia is a transient place due to being the capital, and that gives the place an ebb and flow that not many other places have”


But not everything is perfect, the issue that is talked about by the city council and by citizens the most is that the issue is with homelessness. And while some people have choice words on the subject, it’s deeper of a subject than it seems. Hardaway gives his two cents on the subject by noting his experience “Olympia was an affordable place where artists and people without higher financial aspirations or means could live and pursue their goals. There was a tight-knit DIY “Do It Yourself” community that thrived here, in some ways isolated from the outside world. But, as a lot of new people have been moving here who have more money and more normal interests, that sense of community has been disappearing. The housing market is pricing out all of my friends and coworkers, and I’ll probably have to leave at some point as well. ” This provides more insight than what’s normally portrayed in major news stories, and Malek jumps into this, stating “This is also the feeling that people need to reexamine their issues with what’s keeping them from being downtown, don’t blame everything on the homeless!”


But it’s not just what to complain about it’s also what to do to improve peoples lives in Olympia, a possible idea that Tiger provided some solutions, talking about “Including more lower-income housing for people to afford than just 1000$ a month studio apartments, adding rooftop gardens to the roofs of buildings and adding more bathrooms, which would make Olympia feel safer and improve places around Olympia.” Hardaway answers the question “If you had all the time and money in the world what would you change?” with the statement “I would buy every single old building downtown, preserve every single one, and make everyone’s rent affordable.”


Olympia is a constantly changing place and its needs are constantly evolving like the people that live there, what could be the needs for the city are up to the people that there, we can only see what the needs of the people will be when the time comes.