Before sweeps and violence continued in Cal Anderson, and before Seattle City Hall reversed course on the start of defunding the Seattle Police Department, artists and activists pointed at a simpler failure to live up to the demands of the CHOP protest zone after what they said was a botched attempt to preserve and protect the massive E Pine BLACK LIVES MATTER mural.
Now Mayor Jenny Durkan and the Seattle Department of Transportation are announcing a new plan that will bring the original mural artists together to remove the original and replace it with a new and improved replica designed to better withstand the tests of a Capitol Hill street. And they’re in a rush to do it to get ahead of another Seattle challenge — the weather:
Starting Tuesday morning, September 22, the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture (ARTS) and the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) will be collaborating with the original artists from VividMatterCollective to recreate the Black Lives Matter street mural painted during this summer’s protests on Capitol Hill. The mural has rapidly deteriorated primarily because of paint applied to an unscored surface covered in slippery aggregate. After discussions between ARTS, SDOT, and the fifteen artists who worked to create the street mural in June, all have agreed to a comprehensive removal, recreation, and preservation plan that kicks off on Tuesday.
City officials announced Monday the new project on E Pine between 10th and 11th. “The recreation efforts will get underway quickly to avoid the inclement weather – rain and pavement that is too cold for paint to properly cure – that would delay this work until sometime in 2021,” the announcement reads.
SDOT says each of the original artists have worked with the city “to develop a plan to remove the current artwork and prepare the site so that the artwork can be recreated in a more durable fashion to survive the harsh roadway conditions.”
“Vivid Matter Collective along with the City of Seattle is proud to announce the collaborative effort in preserving the beautiful Black Lives Matter monument, making it a permanent landmark celebrating progress and change during this unprecedented time in Seattle’s history,” artist Kimisha Turner, a member of the collective and the original efforts to create the mural, says in the announcement.
In July, following the police raid and sweep that cleared CHOP, CHS reported on the frustrations of artists and activists who saw a botched attempt allowed by SDOT to preserve the huge mural painted during the weeks-long protest as an early sign that the city was unlikely to live up to its pledges to the Black community in the wake of ongoing protests following the police killing of George Floyd.
In its announcement, SDOT acknowledged that the original community-led effort to preserve the mural it allowed had hurt more than it had helped. “The deterioration of the artwork further accelerated when members of the public who were not a part of the collective applied sealant without the original artists’ permission,” the announcement reads. “The sealant damaged the artwork, which is now beginning to separate from the roadway in some areas. The City is committed in time, resources, and values to do better.”
This week, the city is attempting to provide a better answer to those doubts saying the new plan it has developed with the artists “to recreate a longer-lasting Black Lives Matter mural in its original location” is “an acknowledgement of the cultural significance of the site in the Black Lives Matter movement.”
“The Capitol Hill Black Lives Matter street mural is a potent symbol of free speech and civil rights” SDOT director Sam Zimbabwe says in the statement. “I am deeply sorry that we fell short in our efforts to prevent damage from occurring to the original mural. SDOT is committed to supporting the original artists to restore their work in a more long-lasting fashion.”
Tuesday, the work will begin by tracing and scoring the existing footprint of the mural to prepare the surface for new paint. Repainting is planned to begin this Saturday, September 26th — if it is not raining.
SDOT says pavement crew chief and muralist Dahvee Encisco will be available to advise the artists on installation of “a durable on-street mural with the correct primer, number of paint layers, and adding traction material to each coat of paint that can withstand the roadway conditions in this area.”
When the recreation of the new, better-protected mural is complete, the project won’t be over, the city says. Street murals “will continue to deteriorate at a rate much faster than other surfaces.”
“Maintaining the integrity of the recreated Black Lives Matter mural will be an ongoing project for all,” the SDOT announcement reads.
We’ve asked the department for more information on the budget for the work and how the effort can be sustained. SDOT says the protective posts added to the street and the 4-way stop sign added at 10th Ave E and E Pine “to help eastbound drivers transition onto the block” will remain. UPDATE: SDOT says it is still working on getting a total cost for the project to us but confirmed that the artists will be compensated for their participation. UPDATE x2: SDOT says it will not know the total cost of the project until it is finished. “We will not know the final costs of the materials and other work associated with this until the work has been completed,” a spokesperson said. “There will also be ongoing investments to preserve the artwork in the future.”
As for closures, SDOT says E Pine will be open to traffic as crews remove the original paint and preparing the street. The planned weekend repainting might require E Pine to shut down but that timing is up in the air and will depend on the weather.
The city is currently leading a community planning effort to develop a plan for new resources and improvements in Cal Anderson Park including responses to many of the issues that arose in the area during CHOP and the ongoing homelessness crisis in the city.
Meanwhile, the Seattle City Council must decide this week how it will respond to Mayor Durkan’s veto of the council-approved cuts to the SPD budget that many hoped would be a first step to meeting some of the most critical demands from the city’s Black Lives Matter movement.
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