Based in Tacoma’s rapidly gentrifying Hilltop neighborhood, Fab-5 remains an integral part of the community that remains resilient despite constant pressures of displacement. Beginning 19 years ago, Fab-5 was launched by a group of youth in Pierce County who sought more opportunities for young artists to mobilize their creativity and manifest their ideas into the community.
Since then, Fab-5 has successfully put forth this vision by utilizing undervalued resources and transforming them into artistic spaces for young artists. Now located on the block of 13th and MLK Way, Fab-5 continues their operations, using studios to teach breakdance, oil painting, legal graffiti, digital arts and musical production.
While Fab-5 has been officially open for 2 months, the organization has actually been running for close to 19 years. Tiffany Hammond, the Vice Manager, explained more about the mission of Fab-5 and what they have meant to the Hilltop community.
“It started with young people just not having a space to go and create, and then just using that as a mission to start writing grants of their own,” Hammond said. “We got our first space on 15th and MLK. After seven years of being there, we got moved out with a 30-day notice because of gentrification, because of people buying spaces, and displacement. Then we moved here, and we’ve taught conferences and things of that sort, but pretty much we promote youth to go out into the community and learn how to conquer the art world in different ways, but also be leaders. Our studios in the back are used as temporary by local artists, especially young people of color who don’t have a space—or a can’t afford a space outside of their house—to create and have shows here.”
Most recently, Fab-5 has received public recognition for their #DesignTheHill program to play a role in the development in anticipation of the Hilltop link extension. In partnership with the Tacoma Housing Authority, Fab-5 hosted a series of design labs for local community members to play a role in the design of residential, commercial, and retail space along the MLK corridor. This included hands-on work designing first-floor business spaces, affordable housing units, community spaces, culturally relevant building design, rooftop alleys, streets and sidewalks. The community collaboration allowed residents of the Hilltop to be involved with the changing image of their neighborhood, rather than leaving it to the hands of developers and public officials.
Hammond also elaborated on the future of Fab-5 and the challenges the organization may face.
“Anytime you have any kind of displacement that takes away from the community that was here, it’s become more about reaching out to Lakewood, reaching out to Steilacoom, the Eastside, and trying to bring them back, but at the same time it’s going to take us going out to schools and reaching out,” Hammond said. “A lot of folks who are also new to the Hilltop feel the need to step into this space, so it’s also about reestablishing the matter, in the nicest way, that it’s not intended for you and this space was a sanctuary for folks who didn’t have this opportunity. So, we have to be that same sanctuary and prioritize folks at the end of the day.”