Changing Lives Of Yesler Terrace
8:50 am
Fri July 5, 2013

Portrait Of A Displaced Artist

Charles Henry Parrish is a sculptor and resident of Yesler Terrace, but will need to move before December to other housing.
Credit KUOW Photo/Dominic Black

Charles Henry Parrish is an artist. For him art is work, it's therapy, it's vocation. He has survived several upheavals in his life, and he’s about to face another.

Parrish meets me at the door of his home in Yesler Terrace. Yesler Terrace is set for a massive overhaul that will turn Seattle’s first public-housing project into a mixed-income community. Altogether, Parrish is among about 500 households that will need to be relocated in advance of the renovation that could take up to 20 years to complete.

He is neatly dressed in a black polo, zip-up light brown cardigan and black trousers. A native of Virginia, Charles attended art college before moving north to California and then to Washington state.

Charles Henry Parrish Describes Part Of His Artistic Process

As he shows me into the living room of his one bedroom house, he tells me of the Yesler Terrace he first moved into 25 years ago.

“It was scary. It was real scary. Because when I first moved in across the street there, folks would ring my doorbell thinking I was going to smoke dope with them; people running in and out of the apartments, selling drugs and stuff. Fighting and stuff - fighting forever,” says Parrish. 

But Yesler Terrace these days is a different place, he says. And it's definitely home. 

Charles Henry Parrish Works In Several Mediums To Create His Art

We sit and talk in his living room — with a small kitchen off to the side, it's part studio and part gallery. Along one wall sits a table heaving with figures and busts in plaster and clay; covering the walls are hand drawings, diagrams, sketches and photographs of works Parrish has sold in years past. All these artworks, all these artifacts are what Parrish will be taking with him when he moves to new housing. Where that will be, though, isn't yet certain. 

Parrish has been working with an advisor from the Seattle Housing Authority, visiting neighborhoods in different parts of town and getting a feel for where he'd like to settle next.

“I got to be out of here by December of this year. Me and my counselor have been working on finding a place,” says Parrish. “I hate to move because I'm 58 right now. Getting up and moving at 58 — but it's okay. Everything's got to change sometimes I suppose.”