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‘Intertwined’ banners above Central District connect Seattle to Portland via 23rd Ave, MLK

(Image: Wa Na Wari)

A new Central District project that connects Black art creativity and community across the Pacific Northwest can be seen fluttering in the breeze above 23rd Ave, E Union, S Jackson, and Martin Luther King Jr. Way.

The banners of Intertwined, a new temporary public project from art center Wa Na Wari and the Seattle Art Museum, will hang above these Central District streets through April 2022 and continues an installation that first began in the Rose City featuring the work of artist Hank Willis Thomas and Portland-based artist and storyteller Intisar Abioto.

“Since Wa Na Wari’s inception, I have been interested in what I call the ‘I-5 connection.’ Black artists living in the Northwest are experiencing similar opportunities and constraints due to gentrification and affordability while also living in one of the most beautiful landscapes of the world,” Elisheba Johnson, Wa Na Wari’s co-founder and curator, said. “Bringing this project up from Portland shows the expansiveness of Black beauty in the Northwest.”

The nine, four-foot-tall banners fly above 23rd, Jackson, Union, and Martin Luther King Jr. Way across the Central District and feature paired words and images:

The banner installation began in Portland, Oregon in December 2019 as part of a series called In—Between presented by the Regional Arts & Culture Council (RACC). RACC noted that Julia Dolan, the Minor White Curator of Photography at the Portland Art Museum, reviewed Thomas’s body of work with Abioto, who quickly gravitated to Thomas’s text-based series “I AM A MAN,” inspired by a 1968 Ernest C. Withers photograph showing a large group of protesters bearing the same message. Thomas’s series of paintings plays with the orientation and wording of the text (A Man I Am, I Be a Man, I Am Many, I Am The Man, etc.), ending with a painting that says, “I am. Amen.” Thomas said, “The greatest revelation should be that we are.”

With the banners now in place in Seattle, the messages and the city’s connection to its Portland sister are on display for passersby and those seeking the works out.

You can start your walk at Wa Na Wari at 911 24th Ave. Learn more at wanawari.org.


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