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Acknowledging botched first effort, City of Seattle announces plan with artists to quickly remove and recreate longer-lasting Capitol Hill Black Lives Matter mural

An image from SDOT showing the deterioration of the mural (Image: SDOT)

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.”

The mural in July already showed signs of fading (Image: CHS)

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.”

(Image: SDOT(

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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13 thoughts on “Acknowledging botched first effort, City of Seattle announces plan with artists to quickly remove and recreate longer-lasting Capitol Hill Black Lives Matter mural” -- All CHS Comments are held for moderation before publishing

  1. Maybe they should find a place for the piece that won’t need constant maintenance? The roadway seems like a losing proposition, and will required inordinate resources and time to keep looking decent. Seems like a good idea in a bad location to me.

  2. The message of the mural is essential. However, the paint and other chemicals will constantly flake and drain directly into Puget Sound. If justice is to be made whole, we have to take care of the environment too. These compounds will migrate into the food chain.

    I’m been puzzled about Seattle’s embrace of the painted streets for years. The effect lasts for about a week, then traffic and grime begins to accumulate and the paint starts to fail. I thought we were deeply concerned about the orca and salmon. It’s a funny way to show it.

  3. Instead of treating paint fading on a busy arterial as an emergency, I wish the city was treating the condition of Cal Anderson Park and Williams Park as an emergency. Rampant drug use, murder,,sexual abuse, in both locations and yet we are more concerned about re-painting the street before it starts raining. There is plenty of time for artwork, not so much for finding a solution to rid Capitol Hill parks of violence, murder and sexual assault.

  4. “botched attempt to preserve and protect the massive E Pine BLACK LIVES MATTER mural”

    If you want your mural preserved don’t put it in the middle of a busy road. It’s graffiti. And there is no obligation for the city or anybody else to maintain graffiti. The idea that BLM graffiti deserves to be preserved more than any of the rest is a delusion.

  5. The main benefit I’ve seen to this mural is the (temporary?) road diet that makes it somewhat more comfortable to cross the street, as a seemingly accidental byproduct.

    I appreciate SDOT is going to invest in these performative gestures that don’t actually help black (or non-black) lives — but maybe they could actually improve our neighborhood as a byproduct?

  6. //failure to live up to the demands//

    Since all of their “demands” ended in failure, maybe they should try dialing it down to “requests” next time?

    “Demands” is really more what the commander of a legion of centurions that have encircled a city is positioned to make.

    When 100 randos dancing in the middle of the interstate make “demands” people are at best likely to smile politely or, at worst, ignore them completely and keep driving.

  7. ///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.///

    If that’s true, the city has an obligation under Title 39 of the RCW to open this to competitive bid as they would all street improvements contracted to outside vendors.

    The prior performance of work on a specific project cannot be used as a determining factor in awarding the contract and no favoritism can be shown to any of the original artists who choose to submit bids. If Clear Channel Outdoor or Zimmerman Asphalt and Construction submits a bid it must be given equal opportunity as TK’s bid.

  8. I support this project — and doing it right this time! — but I’m curious if the bike lanes will be reopened and if cars will drive over the new mural? Just want to talk about how bike lanes are a safety issue so hopefully we can have both.

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