Document Type

Case Study

Publication Date



Susan Kunimatsu


In the 1960s, the civil rights struggle gripped much of the nation as Black people and African nations sought greater sovereignty at the personal and state level. The Black Arts/West theater company (BAW) was born into this atmosphere with an express purpose to “Educate, Enlighten and Entertain” (Barnett, 2001b). Over an 11-year span, BAW produced and performed over 100 plays in Seattle, while also teaching dance and acting as part of the Central Area Motivation Program (CAMP). Unfortunately, the theater struggled to establish a home and sustainable funding. How does a fledgling theater group of Black artists and activists match their artistic vision to a rapidly growing organization combatting historic racial discrimination, and the early stages of neighborhood gentrification? This case study establishes a timeline for significant BAW events, provides historical context, and investigates various reasons that led to its official closure in 1980.

Organization or Event

Black Arts/West

Form of Entity


Area of Activity

Arts in Social Service/Social Justice, Arts in Community Development, Producer/Creator, Venue/Facility

Artistic Discipline

Theatre, Dance, Visual Arts, Folk/Traditional/Heritage Arts