Moksha Fest Marks Both an End and a New Beginning for the Vital Arts Space

The U District boutique is closing with a blowout music fest before reopening in the ID in spring.

This is just us living our lives,” Robin Guilfoil, co-owner of Moksha, tells me with a chuckle as he attempts to explain exactly what he and co-owner Kathleen Ilagan do at their boutique and art space in the U District. “This space is our art form—it’s welcoming and accessible and we love to collaborate within the community.”

Located right on the Ave, Moksha has become a hub of local music and art. Walking in, the first things I notice are Guilfoil’s vibrant paintings decorating the walls with vivid depictions of some of his favorite musicians splashed with fluorescent colors and intricate patterns. The clothing on sale, most of it from local designers, ranges from see-through jackets to trendy handbags and in-house-designed graphic T-shirts that serve up a myriad of Seattle flavors.

While the boutique is in the retail business by day, it’s perhaps best known for its events at night. “It wasn’t our vision to turn this space into a music venue,” Guilfoil explains. “But an artist walked through the door and really loved our energy and asked us if they could do a show.” That inaugural show, in 2014, was headlined by hip-hop duo Loops for Lovers and opened by a pre-Sub Pop Porter Ray. From there Guilfoil and Ilagan continued to book acts.

“Moksha has been the best interchangeable performance space in the scene,” says local rapper Astro King Phoenix, who’s performed multiple shows there. “From handcrafted props to the ever-changing atmospheric energy that it administers to anyone walking in to the shop, it has held a place for some of the most creative exhibits and housed some of the most influential artists.”

At the end of the month, Moksha will close its doors—but it’s more a beginning than an ending. After three years of Ilagan and Guilfoil’s ownership and 11 years under woodworker and sculptor Aleph Geddis, Moksha will reopen in the International District this spring. “We want to try to be more accessible to our community,” Ilagan says. “We have hosted many events, and artists try to get their friends to come through, but a lot of the feedback is, ‘Aw, man, that’s so north. That’s deep.’ So yeah, the neighborhood is not ideal for our community base and support.”

Before they shut down operations in the U District, Moksha will host a two-day music festival, highlighted on the first day by performances by local favorites Gifted Gab and Otieno Terry and a DJ set by prolific hip-hop producer Luna God. The second is “For Femmes” day, with local rappers ZELLi and Guayaba and DJ sets from Women.Weed.WiFi. “In December we reached out to some of our favorite artists in the city just seeing who was available,” says Guilfoil. “We tried to diversify different sounds and scenes. People were eager to be a part of it, and the funding will be used to renovate the new space. Out of all the neighborhoods, we spend the most time in the International District—eating, shopping, and hanging out—so that’s where we want to be.” Moksha Fest, 4542 University Way N.E., $10–$30. All ages. 9 p.m. Fri., Jan. 20–Sat., Jan. 21.