“Walls rotate. And if you’ve been in the game long enough, you’ve seen it happen to your own walls,” muralist and street artist Weirdo tells CHS.
You’ve seen his “hyper-real” Weirdocult works all over the Hill, most prominently on the side of Neumos where a regular rotation of new works hype the latest big music release or, recently, new kits for the Seattle Sounders.
The murals are his business and this kind of street work is a growing industry for influencers and marketing. They’re not strictly advertising. To stay clear of the city’s rules about off premise advertising — remember this legendary 12th and Pine ad space? — the depictions don’t include overt commercial messaging and involve imagery and subjects related to the building and the community. The paintings, in the end, become statements and part of the colorful background of Pike/Pine and Broadway.
Mostly, Weirdo’s murals are celebrated for their mix of intense, beyond real colors, and photorealistic depictions of his subjects. Weirdo’s latest work is being wrapped up on one of the newer canvases in the Capitol Hill wall space on the backside of the Hunters Capital-developed Broadway Building, along Nagle Place, facing the popular and usually bustling Cal Anderson skate and sport courts.
“What we’re doing here, is paying homage to Pride, and all the diversity, and all the actual people who live on Capitol Hill, who are locals,” Weirdo says.
Because muraling is a business, there is a sponsor. Credit union BECU wanted to make a statement to be part of the neighborhood’s Pride celebration so it linked up with Weirdo and decided to put the Hunters Capital space to new use.
“The mural is not an advertisement. It’s a piece of art,” Stephen Black, BECU vice president of brand strategy told CHS. While acknowledging that the messaging is part of the credit union’s marketing effort, Black said the intention is for the project to also be part of celebrating Pride’s diversity and being part of “meaningful places” in the neighborhood.
Last August, the wall debuted as a neighborhood mural spot with hype of a different sort. London street artist DFace was opening a show at Treason Gallery in Pioneer Square. DFace’s Cobain tribute “Kant Complain” mural went up on the wall and stayed there until a new project and opportunity came along.
A representative for Hunters Capital says the mural was not a monument to the late grunge musician and featuring new works on a regular basis was the plan all along. “The Cobain piece was never intended to be a forever piece,” the rep says. “When the Pride themed piece was presented, it felt like a wonderful story for this neighborhood and particularly nice timing with Pride around the corner.”
“The Kurt Cobain image was a wonderful addition to the park for the past 6 months, as we hope the pride piece will be as well,” the representative said.
That hasn’t stopped some sour, grunge-y bitterness to seep out of Pioneer Square and onto the TV news. According to KIRO, people want the Cobain mural back.
BECU’s Black says the credit union has tried to be a quick learner around this kind of art and how to be best collaborate with it. “We’re learning something really quickly. There is a very, very vibrant community of street artists out there.” If there’s an opportunity in the future, BECU hopes to work with Treason Gallery on a “solution.”
“We’re thrilled to meet an artist we enjoy and getting to know through this process,” Black said. “It’s our first foray, so we’re learning.”
As for the face at the center of the new mural, expect to see more of her. BECU says she’ll also make an appearance on the walls inside Capitol Hill Station come Pride.
Pic sent to CHS of new Kurt Cobain mural "near Cal Anderson" pic.twitter.com/PF3KteXtH2
— jseattle (@jseattle) August 3, 2018
At the center of all of this on Nagle Place is the fact that art eventually covers art — even the Obama mural was eventually replaced — and the reality that the changing world of marketing and advertising has seeped into street art and wall murals. We’re probably lucky, for now, at least, the Hill has great spaces and mostly great art to fill them.
“It’s an industry now,” Weirdo says. “I make my living off it.”
So, Weirdo and the rest of us probably aren’t as upset Kurt got painted over. But another Nirvana mural on another wall or at a different time? That would be fine.
“This city deserves a hyper real Cobain,” Weirdo says. “This city deserves somebody local to do that for them.”
You can find the new Weirdocult Pride mural on Nagle Place just north of E Pine.
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