Center on Contemporary Art (CoCA) was founded in 1980 with the intention to foment and create contemporary art in Seattle. Beginning with "Four Light Installations" by James Turrell, CoCA has served as a conduit for conversation and continues to anticipate currents in both art and the Pacific Northwest.
This site features online exhibitions documenting CoCA's existence from its origins downtown in the early 80's, following its peregrinations through Capitol Hill, South Lake Union, Downtown, Georgetown, Pioneer Square and Carkeek Park. First developed in 2016 as part of our 35th anniversary celebration, and with the support of a grant from 4Culture, the CoCA Digital Archive (CDA) now features 31 exhibitions that span our history and illustrate CoCA's influence on contemporary art in the Pacific Northwest. In addition to showcasing local artists, CoCA also brought work by emerging artists based in other regions of the country (especially the west coast and New York but also Chicago and Detroit) to Seattle for exhibition, further influencing the development of contemporary art in the Northwest.
This digital archive is a work in progress. We continue to dig through this treasure trove of materials that languished in a storage space for almost a decade, much of it slides, analog video and audio tapes, photos on paper and a unique collection of promotional materials from over 35 years of exhibitions, special events and happenings. The exhibitions highlighted here chart the history of both CoCA and the cultural scene in Seattle. Many notable firsts came from CoCA: the organization provided the introduction of many artists to the Seattle area, like Turrell, Nam June Paik, Barbara Kruger and Komar & Melamid. The exhibits "Modern Primitives" and "Gender, Fucked" provided premiere exhibitions into what were highly controversial topics at the time. With the Northwest Annuals, the Heaven & Earth series, the CoCA Archives illustrate a strong tradition of exhibiting and highlighting local artists.
For four decades, and at many locations, CoCA has provided Seattle with ground breaking exhibitions that provide a kind of social history. Exhibitions conveyed an immediacy and a connection to issues that served both to push the envelope and to provide fascinating (and somewhat fuzzy) snapshots of their eras. These exhibitions represent a fraction of what the physical archives hold and as funding, capacity and time allow, we will continue to develop what we hope will be come an important public resource and tool for those interested in learning more about Seattle's cultural legacy, identity and history.
Yet, we are missing so much information: who are the people in the photos, who took them and when, what was going on and how did it affect the people who were there? What was the most memorable CoCA exhibition or event you attended? If you have any of the answers or have materials you would like to add, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The CoCA Archives Project was launched and is directed by Anna R Hurwitz (UW MLIS candidate 2019). It has been realized through the hard work and dedication of archivists Joel Irving MLS, Nichole Figley MLS, Rachel Singletary Kopel MLIS and historians Barbara Alfeo and David Francis, PhD, with the assistance of many dedicated interns and the support of CoCA's Executive Director, Nichole DeMent and the CoCA Board of Directors. 4Culture funding provides nominal stipends for the archivists; most of the project has been accomplished by passionate volunteers. We would like to sing the praises of Pedro and Wanda Pelayo for their generosity in providing work and storage space. To learn more about CoCA's more recent history and what the organization is doing today, please visit cocaseattle.org.
In addition to the archive, volunteers have contributed to building a Wikipedia page so that our far-flung community can participate in telling the story of CoCA as we continue to conduct oral histories to fill in missing information.
We look forward to being able to share the over 200 major exhibitions (plus hundreds of other exhibits and events) and the work of almost 3,000 artists CoCA has presented in the past four decades.
Copyright and Permissions This site may contain copyrighted material which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in an effort to advance education and we believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you are the copyright holder and would like us to credit you or take down an image, please contact the administrator.
CoCA Archives Facility | Photographer: Miguel Edwards
FIND, FOLLOW, CONNECT WITH US!
PROJECT DIRECTOR/ARCHIVIST Anna R Hurwitz MLIS Candidate, University of Washington, Seattle B.A. Human Ecology, College of the Atlantic, Bar Harbor, ME
CONSULTING ARCHIVIST Rachel Singletary Kopel, MLIS Librarian at Art Institute Seattle MLIS, University of Washington, Seattle BFA Graphic Design & Book Arts, University of the Arts, Philadelphia, PA
CONSULTING HISTORIAN Dave Francis, PhD Public Art Director, City of Shoreline PhD, University of Washington, Seattle
ASSOCIATE ARCHIVIST Jessica Lahd MLIS Candidate, University of Washington, Seattle B.A. Major: Reading Teacher Education. Minor: Special Education, Eastern Washington University
This project made possible with Heritage and Equipment grants from 4Culture.
DONATE Help keep this project going strong with a donation; every amount helps. Donors $100 and over get their choice of vintage CoCA swag!