This summer, four blank walls on Capitol Hill were supposed to get a stunning makeover from a group of local graffiti artists in an effort to promote more large-scale thematic murals in Seattle. But a dispute over the project’s Stunning Seattle brand and its creative rights has brought the mural effort to a standstill.
The Stranger reported that Stunning Seattle was mired in a potential legal tussle between two arts groups who teamed up on the mural project last year. The Graffiti Defense Coalition, which started the project in 2011, is at odds with former partners, non-profit arts group The World Is Fun.
In an email to CHS, TWIF executive director Amy Faulkner said the group has severed contacts with GDC and hopes the group can proceed forward with a mural project — just not one called Stunning Seattle.
“We authorized the city to move forward with the GDC in December of 2012 and have not had contact with them since,” she wrote. “The issue at hand is between the GDC and the City of Seattle and we are not privy to any recent happenings.”
One of the four planned murals was supposed to be painted on the blank 90-foot-wide-by-45-foot-tall wall above Poquitos on 10th and Pike. At the heart of the issue stalling the project is the name Stunning Seattle and the $49,000 matching grant the city awarded for the project last October.
The funds have not yet been disbursed, and unless the two parties can come to an agreement, the mural project may have its grant revoked. The Stranger reports that Department of Neighborhoods project manager Allynn Ruth has given the GDC three choices: change the name, purchase intellectual property insurance against a TWIF lawsuit, or forfeit the grant.
The catalyst for the break-up appears to be TWIF’s attempts to enter a formal partnership with GDC last November. The mural idea apparently began with GDC members in 2009 following a series of informal meetings. The Stranger reports that the GDC decided they needed a fiscal sponsor, and TWIF appeared to be a perfect match.The two groups began working on Stunning Seattle and soon won the city grant.
After Stunning Seattle was awarded the grant, Faulkner says TWIF drafted a partnership so that the two groups could make joint decisions on how to spend leftover funds. According to GDC founder Justin Hart, the partnership was a takeover, an attempt by TWIF to control the mural project and future projects beyond this summer.
TWIF executive director Amy Faulkner claims that her group worked equally on Stunning Seattle, including helping apply for the city grant. Faulkner argues that since GDC decided against the partnership late last year neither group should have the right to the Stunning Seattle name.
After the Stranger article was published, Faulkner penned a blog post saying the article was “unfortunate and untrue.” She wrote that GDC, not TWIF, was the first and only party to resort to lawyering. In the post, Faulkner says she sent the following message in an email to Hart after GDC decided against the partnership: “If you do not want the partnership to move forward that is fine but the Stunning Seattle brand was built together so neither party should proceed with it.”
In July, Hart told CHS that the project was being held up after the city requested they purchase intellectual property insurance but did not tell us about the controversy with TWIF.
Hart founded the GDC in 2011 after a city report found that no graffiti in the city “could be called artistic tagging.” CHS reported on GDC’s first four planned murals in March. The four projects included:
- Shop Rite @ 426, 15th Ave E on the north facing wall (65 feet x 30 feet)
- Union Art Coop @ 1100 E Union St. on the north facing wall (125 feet x 80 feet)
- SJW Studios @ 1424, 10th Ave on the south facing wall (80 feet x 45 feet)
- The Pike Building @ 1000 E Pike St on the east facing wall (90 feet x 45 feet)
The E Pike wall has been lined up for a big mural project in the past but the work never came to fruition. Advertising agency Creature, which used to call the building home before moving to 12th Ave, planned a $15,000 project for the wall in 2009.