With Capitol Hill a nirvana of murals, here’s why Kurt Cobain got painted over for Pride on Nagle Place

Kurt Cobain could give a shit about Nagle Place. And walls? Walls change.

“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.

The new work is typically colorful. And typically realistic. Its subjects are real people cast on a rainbow wheel of colors.

“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.

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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18 thoughts on “With Capitol Hill a nirvana of murals, here’s why Kurt Cobain got painted over for Pride on Nagle Place

  1. D*Face is a world famous street artist that took out the time to make a mural that was incredibly specific to the area it was in. It was genuinely a huge gift and anyone who follows street art (or art in general) understands that. The people that are upset, I being one of them, had no idea it was going to be painted over since that was a blank wall before and it seems as though that neither artist himself nor the business that commissioned the mural were aware that it was going to be painted over in less than a year.
    When my SO and I were talking about leaving the neighborhood when our lease was up for a cheaper apartment with more space we decided against it and one of the biggest reasons was that we wouldn’t get to walk by that mural every day.
    I respect Weirdos work. Honestly, the mural he did of Jacques Cousteau on the side of the Reef is one of my favorites in Seattle, but he needs to learn how to be more humble and understand what art, that isn’t his, might do for the community or mean to people. It is also astonishing that he felt comfortable painting over someone else’s work before getting their permission. Getting artists of D*Face’s caliber in the same area of local artists elevates their work too, but this seems to be forgotten. Most of the people that are upset are the local artists.
    Weirdo has a monopoly on murals in the area and has repainted over his own multiple times and will have many other chances to paint other parts of the city, but we just wanted this tiny piece of the city to be left alone because the artist who painted it doesn’t have the ability to come back and repaint it as easily as Weirdo does.

    I feel like BECU has handled a volatile situation incredibly well by working with the community.

    • Well said!

      To your point, once we lose something like this, there’s no way to get it back. Sure, street art doesn’t last forever – time and weather erode paint, buildings come down and go up, and so forth. It’s a shame this piece didn’t see a fuller life.

      @Sloopy – I’m not sure if Cobain’s resonance with the young really matters. Like Jimi Hendrix and his statue right around the corner, Kurt represents a specific slice of Seattle’s music history. History adds character to this neighborhood and to this city.

      • I think it matters. I don’t know your age, but grunge was important to me because I was 20 at the time. Now I’m pushing 50. When I was 20, I wouldn’t cry over painting over an Elvis mural because it would be my parents’ generation. So the younger generation might not be as attached as Gen X people would be. Not saying Cobain doesn’t have history here (and he’s hardly forgotten) but just that he’s less meaningful to younger folks.

      • So we shouldn’t have nice things because they may or may not be relevant to specific age demographics?

        I’m not really sure what you’re trying to get at, Sloopy.

        J. P. Patches stopped airing a year before I was born and most “young people” probably have no idea who he is. Does that mean Seattle made a mistake renaming N 34th St to J.P. Patches Place in 2013?

        Should the Chief Sealth Trail be renamed to the Macklemore Trail, because Chief Seattle has been dead for 150 years and Macklemore is still relevant?

        Or are you just trying to complain about “kids these days”?

      • “So we shouldn’t have nice things because they may or may not be relevant to specific age demographics?”

        Could you respond to my actual comment?

        I’m saying that Cobain isn’t as relevant for young people (it was 30 years ago) and that they probably wouldn’t think it’s a big deal to paint over one mural with a rock star. That doesn’t change because you were young when he was popular. Just because grunge was meaningful to you doesn’t mean it is for everyone, forever. There’s a whole world of people who aren’t white middle class folks who listen to 90s alt rock.

        No one is proposing renaming everything in Seattle nor forgetting Kurt Cobain.

  2. Meh, not really a big Cobain fan. I prefer a nice fresh mural! Just because the guy’s face isn’t plastered all over our city doesn’t mean the GenXers will forget. I’m a millennial and find you can’t turn the radio on without having to change the station 100 times to avoid all the same boring Nirvana songs. #neverabletoforget

  3. One of the coolest things about street art is how it changes over time. Leaving the same mural up forever is stagnant and entirely ignores the origins of this kind of street art. Part of its value as art is the fleeting nature of it. You kids today think just because something was a certain way when you discovered it that it should stay that way forever. If you can’t handle dynamic change you might be happier in the suburbs.

    • Alright when does someone get to paint over this? I’m allready over it. Lol. How about we let it run 1 month. & repaint or better yet let’s juat make it a legal wall…. we need more of those. Not more street art murals. 💤 🤣🤣🤣🎨💯

      • Why not? If the people who own the wall want to change it every week they should. It’d certainly be interesting as passerby to see it change. Same for making it a free-for-all public painting space.

    • youroldauntie, If you are the type of person that can’t distinguish the qualitative differences between D*face’s site-specific mural and Weirdo’s throwaway-shill mural, then you probably also hold The Godfather in the same esteem as Duck Dynasty (season 4, episode 11). I don’t know what to say to you except thank God it’s not your call. Some people in this area value quality and understand that new doesn’t always equate to good or better.

      • I never said one was better. I said static in urban wall art is boring. But since I moved to Capitol Hill in 1976, I do think I have pretty good idea about the difference between new and good in relation to this neighborhood. It’s not a place to cry over change just because you think a thing is objectively better.

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