More Martyr Sauce

The Pioneer Square gallery relocates.

Rare is the gentrification story with a happy ending. But lo and behold: After being forced it of its old location near Occidental Square, Martyr Sauce, Tariqa Waters’ intimate art gallery, lives on just a few blocks away.

Planting a flag for art and music in rapidly changing Pioneer Square, the new Martyr Sauce sits below the corner of 1st Avenue and Jackson Street. A long, concrete flight of stairs leads down to the door, set underground at Seattle’s original street level. Inside, Waters and her husband, Ryan Waters, have turned the former Bud’s Jazz Records shop into a brick-walled, subterranean haven for visual art and musical performance.

After having the rent in their storefront-and-stairway gallery raised by $800 this spring, the couple feared they’d be priced out of the neighborhood they’ve lived in since moving to Seattle in 2012. Then Ryan stumbled onto the new location via Craigslist.

“There were tech companies that wanted in,” Tariqa says, “but we lucked out—the folks we’re subleasing from were holding out for artists.”

At 1,500 square feet, the new gallery is several times larger than the old. The extra space will allow Tariqa to curate a more robust array of visual art and Ryan, a professional guitarist who played with Prince up until his death in April, to book live music.

“The ‘sauce’ was meant to be a mix of art and music but we couldn’t figure out how to do that in a stairway,” Tariqa says. “Now we can be all-inclusive.”

After signing a 2.5-year lease, the couple has been building out the space for the last month and officially opens it Aug. 4 for Pioneer Square’s First Thursday Art Walk. They’re mostly leaving the space alone, as the open floor plan, low ceiling and pre-existing bar are pretty much all they need to produce the kind of events they envision. First to show will be painter Elizabeth Lopez, who opened the original Martyr Sauce in 2014. Pioneer Square-based band the Hollers will perform.

As a touring guitarist, Ryan is often on the road and hasn’t played much in Seattle. “I wanna change that,” he says. “I’m staying home more, putting down roots, and this will help.” 

Even in the few short years the Waters family has been there, the neighborhood has changed drastically. In March of last year, Weyerhaeuser, the Washington-based timber corporation, began construction on their brand-new, seven-story headquarters on Occidental Square, across the street from the old Martyr Sauce. Shortly after, Ryan says, a private security company began around-the-clock patrols of the square.

“Our struggle is to maintain our place here, not just professionally and artistically for ourselves, but for our kids,” Tariqa says, referring to her daughter, Kaelau, who’s a singer and dances in Pacific Northwest Ballet, and her son, named 9, a painter and musician in the Garfield High School jazz band. “We want them to see that you can maintain a life as an artist in Seattle and stay close to what you’re connected to.”

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