Coronavirus took root early in Seattle and like the rest of us, the city is hunkered down, waiting it out. Schools, shops and restaurants are closed and the streets are quiet.
Seattle may be a ghost town, but there is some hope starting to take root on those quiet city streets. An organic movement has blossomed, bringing murals to boarded up storefronts.
In neighborhoods like Ballard, Capital Hill, Belltown and the International District, building owners, civic organizations and artists have teamed up to beautify the plywood walls and windows.
Devon Reynolds, of the Ballard Alliance, had taken notice of how many businesses were boarded up. The restaurants and retailers were concerned about safety from vandalism and looting. However, the Reynolds also noticed that because of these measures, “people were started to feel less safe”. So, the Ballard Alliance partnered with the businesses to bring in artists to paint the boards.
In the following video, Brian Lee of Belltown Pizza talks about how he also put up boards to protect his business assets. The boards got tagged almost immediately and rather than get mad about it, he contacted local artists to help him “create positivity for the community to enjoy.”
One of the first artists to participate was Patrick Nguyen (or Dozfy). He runs a business that creates murals and live interactive art for events and hospitality businesses. Since painting his first Coronavirus mural for Belltown Pizza, he’s been on a roll, creating 21 murals in the past 14 days.
During a time when we all feel such a loss of freedom and control, Dozfy says that “I can only do what I do best, and make art”. He wants to ” move people and bring them together ” (metaphorically, of course).
Artist Josie Rice (Instagram @JosephineRice.Flower), feels the same. Normally, she’s a wedding florist, but all of her work has been postponed, so she’s bringing flowers to Seattle walls instead. So far, she has done three walls in the Ballard and Capital Hill neighborhoods. She feels that her job is to make the walls as pretty as possible. She says that “people need their walks” right now, and that providing art for them creates a “happy circumstance”.
Rice is finding that, what started out as a project to simply upgrade the plywood, is turning into something much more. She has already received commissions for permanent walls. In addition, the business owner for her rainbow flower (pictured below) has received a offer to purchase the mural.
Both she and Dozfy are hearing community leaders beginning to talk about what to do with the boards, once business gets back to normal. Perhaps there will be an exhibit or the boards will sold as hangable art.
It’s this magnifying effect that gives me the most hope. Street art is designed for wide public consumption and it’s always been democratic. Seattle’s coronavirus murals are certainly during their job in the moment, by offering these communities an uplifting, positive message. But the murals also have the potential to spawn a larger explosion of commissioned public art throughout Seattle. And I hope that it does just that.
Take a look for yourself with this gallery of Seattle’s images.
(These photos are courtesy of Visit Seattle and photographer David Newman.)
“…I could use you a little closer, but for now we have to wait, call it a rest”-Brittany Paige
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