Here’s the showy, overblown statement we’re required to post as a group of young and optimistic artists: neighborhoods are a city’s soul, and The Hoods art and design project provides unofficial branding for the soul of Spokane, Washington.

Our city is like a vaudeville performer who runs an unlicensed, nonprofit circus or some ex-Hell’s Angel with an “I love my mom” tattoo and a really nice dog. Oh, sure, your grandmother might freak out and smack you with her cane, but you’re still going to fall in love.

Brick architecture and long alleys, graphic design companies with national clients, graffiti on the train cars outside the concert venue, vintage neon signs—even that third-grader’s crinkled robotic shark drawing on the coffee shop’s community board: that’s our city.

And here’s the apology we’re supposed to make for Spokane: we’re not Seattle, Portland, or San Francisco. First of all, we’re smaller and closer to nature, and you can afford to live here without making organ donations. Second of all, we haven’t always had neighborhoods to love.

We had urban flight and suburban developments without sidewalks. We had blocks of vacant warehouses. We had jacked-up pickups with “truck nuts” and run-down lawns like we were some sort of extension of Idaho. It’s how we earned the nickname Spokompton.

We’ve still got a few empty buildings and plenty of people with pickups, but we’re not that city anymore, and Idaho definitely stops at the state line. The University District is expanding. The urban core is regrowing. The old neighborhoods have bloomed. South Perry. Garland. Even humble and rundown Millwood. The only people who still use the term Spokompton without irony are smug teenagers from the state’s west side.

Best of all, we have a design and arts community that includes some of the country’s best small shops and independent artists.

So here we stand, at the crossroads of Spokane’s great history (hell yeah, Victorian and craftsman homes), its gritty yesteryears, and its glossy, modern future. The Hoods celebrates that old-meets-new mishmash with unofficial neighborhood branding for the Inland Northwest’s biggest and best city.

And it feels good. Welcome to the 509. Welcome to The Hoods.