As night falls, the Seattle canvas calls.
Commercial and residential developers continue to stake their claim on Seattle. Cranes are everywhere. It’s a rush to impose personal will on a bustling metropolis, to carve out a piece of skyline for pocketbooks and posterity.
Every developer vies to recreate the city into their own profitable snowglobe. And as the construction and demolition endlessly marches on, the locals take a stand to retain Seattle’s independence. Street art has become their solace.
The story of Kolkata Sanved and Sohini Chakraborty bears similarity the street art movement in any major city. While corporate manipulation of beloved Seattle may not compare to the extensive emotional abuse of sex trafficking, they share a similar psychological response of becoming a tourist in one’s own life (or city). To combat the intrusive takeovers of life, limb and habitat, art operates as a healthy outlet to vent against the oppression and stifled creativity or self-expression. In Seattle, as the cranes dip their heads with stupid obedience by day, the artists and inspired reclaim the groundlevel (and often above) by night.
Some street artists are relatively well-known in Seattle, (Blink, Ajar, FRend) thanks to their ceaseless and ubiquitous self-promotional pieces. Others are only recognized by fellow bombers, collaborators or local Fedex Office employees. While they may have differing philosophies, each street artist has given into a Seattle design scheme unadulterated by contracts or permit law, contributing of themselves not for money or renown, but to color Seattle in paint, glue and paper.
Of course, contingents of Seattle denounce street art as vandalism that “marr[s] public property.” The SPD requires businesses to remove any graffiti (the undefined, all-encompassing term for illegal art) in a timely manner and Seattle Public Utilities runs citywide campaigns against graffiti art. Their disregard for any aesthetic value in street art derives from the municipally-popular broken windows theory, which depicts vandalism as the gateway to urban disarray and criminal escalation. In the wake of our city’s recent violence, street artists may run into increased deterrents from publicly displaying their work (per the broken windows theory).
The city may denounce street art as unsolicited and therefore felonious, but those with a vested interest in Seattle’s art refuse to align with the municipal preference. These philanthropists have provided bombers and artists with free walls to display their art and hone their craft without the risk of arrest or molestation. SoDo freewall and TUBS in U-District play host to artists and taggers every day, acting as a legal common space for inspiration and creation.
Developers may be designing our skyline, but local artists provide color for our streets. Don’t look up, look around.