Musician | Teacher | Community Development Consultant
“An unbridled freedom and genre emancipation is evident in Ben Hunter’s music, yet the deep blues are a cornerstone of his style”
- Frank Matheis, Living Blues 2017
"The music he plays not only spans an array of genres but a huge swath of history."
- Leah Baltes, City Arts Magazine 2015
Reality has offered a fertile canvas for violinist, storyteller, educator and community enterpriser Benjamin Hunter’s endeavoring mind.
Cross pollinating multiple artistic disciplines for more than a decade, the Seattle based polymath and multi-instrumentalist has dedicated his life to transforming the world’s stale status quo into a vibrant, inclusive, communal, and compassionate society.
Hunter’s first tool was the violin accompanying him on laps around the world. Playing since age 5, he was fortunate to travel the world and absorb various musical styles at a young age. Receiving his degree in Performance Violin, with keen interest in politics and philosophy, Hunter set his sights on the intersection between art, community, and a rapidly evolving clash of culture.
Touring with his band mate Joe Seamons in the internationally acclaimed, award-winning blues duo, Ben Hunter & Joe Seamons, Hunter’s stirring instrumentation and timbre brought tales of the slave trade, reconstruction, racial reconciliation, and America’s still broken promises to the uninclined.
Seeking to formalize the education he received in school and delivered in music venues across the world, Hunter then founded Community Arts Create. In a time when music and arts education is being surgically extracted from school curriculums, the non-profit seeks to create space and opportunity for people of all ages and backgrounds to engage with their individual and collective creative identities, using that as a lens to view their connection with social justice.
However, schools only provided a temporary sanctum for Hunter’s gospel of changing the world through art. He needed a headquarters that existed for the sole purpose of bridging divides, filling knowledge gaps, and fostering a community around those ideals.
The Hillman City Collaboratory was soon formed. Housed in South Seattle’s Hillman City neighborhood, the “social incubator” has brought and maintained camaraderie, inclusiveness, education, and social wellbeing to the residents in and around an area that is seeing rapid shifts due to unrelenting displacement. His ultimate wish is to inspire a Collaboratory in every underserved community in the nation, showcasing the collective might of community members defying precarious economic circumstances through creativity, engagement, and dialogue.
That still wasn't enough for Hunter, and in 2016 he co-founded the Black & Tan Hall, a co-operatively owned restaurant and performing arts venue, shifting the for-profit paradigm to an alternative platform that is hyper-local, built by and for people rooted in community, and serves as an anti-gentrification model that combats displacement and sustains good jobs. More specifically, B&TH supports and elevates arts that give voice, agency, and power to those too often ignored. A place where art and the artists are dignified, valued, and heard!
The multi-disciplinarians latest adventure has taken him to the stage as composer and musical director and cast-mate in acclaimed director Dani Terrell’s Black Bois. The incomparable performance art piece explores and shakes to the foundation the concept of Black masculinity, suffering, and ultimate triumph. The piece helped Hunter destroy toxic stereotypes still assaulting America’s “unwanted step-children.”
With so much completed already, determining Hunter’s next step is near to impossible. However, two things are for certain, whatever it is, at least a small slice of the world will be better off for it, and that endeavoring mind of his will forever be insatiable.
- Marcus Green, Founder of South Seattle Emerald