Wall along trail is “graffiti hotspot”

Publicola reports that the retaining wall along the Mountains to Sound Trail at the north tip of Beacon Hill has become a big graffiti headache, requiring heavy maintenance from Seattle Public Utilities’ Graffiti Rangers:

“‘We check it every day, and we’ve been painting it over every other day for the last two weeks,’ Stoltzfus says. ‘There are other [graffiti hot spots] in the city, but not one that has been covered as frequently and to such an extent.'”

The graffiti issue was discussed at last week’s North Beacon Hill Council meeting. Deputy Mayor Darryl Smith mentioned that a mural on the site to deter taggers is a possibility, but current city rules state that a permit is needed to install a mural, with an agreement to maintain the artwork on an ongoing basis. Whoever steps up to install a mural or other artwork needs to be able to meet this responsibility.

5 thoughts on “Wall along trail is “graffiti hotspot””

  1. The only mural that would work in that space is an uncensored “Open Commumity Canvas”, which could end up being an awesome ever-changing installation curated by the community.

  2. The permit rules are new. An annual permit of $150 will be required for murals on public places. The rationale is that there are murals that fell into disrepair when the people who established them either moved out of the neighborhood or just got into something else. This is what happened to the mural near the Woodland Park Zoo. Put another way, it’s a put your money where your mouth is proposition: it’s not enough to just have an opinion, you have to become involved plus cash up for the annual permit. If it matters, get others involved so no one person is stuck with the annual fee.

    Per John above, whose community?

    A show on hip-hop culture at the Wing Luke Museum in 2003 also contained a study of graffiti in Seattle. I interviewed the curator, who told me according to her study – she was from UC Berkeley – most of the graffiti in Seattle was being produced by white kids from Mercer Island, Bellevue, and Bremerton, and a longstanding clique of UW students. This “community” seemed to especially target Asian-American neighborhoods, like Chinatown/ID, Japantown, and Little Saigon. If you go to the old Tubs building on Roosevelt in the U-District and watch who’s tagging, you’ll see mostly white kids there, too. So, if the point is to give white kids from the burbs with privileged backgrounds a further privilege of an “uncensored open community canvas,” maybe their parents can pay for the permits – unless, of course, you want to write the check. Maybe you’ll pick up the spray cans, too.

  3. Sure, ideally it would be better to have artists from the community. But, at the end the day, I’d still rather see graffiti art from privileged white, suburban kids than I would pedestrian tagging. As it stands right now, only vandals are tagging the wall. Wouldn’t it be better to just open it to the graffiti community, in hopes that people with talent (privileged or not) might contribute?

  4. Hi, Tyler. The vandals who are doing the pedestrian tagging are most often the privileged white suburban kids – and some of them are into their 20s – according to the curator of the show at the 2003 Wing Luke Museum exhibit. They don’t respect murals, either. There was a mural a property owner put on his building next to the bus stop just south of 12th and Jackson, an imaginative Asian-themed dreamscape with a dragon, fish, and a Taoist immortal. The mural was defaced by taggers. It’s now mostly painted over, a dull shade. The wooden pagoda at Daejon Park gets hit by permanent markers, too; last week, the north columns were tagged on the I-90 side.

    Then there are the anarchists – my personal faves. Having discovered the laser printer, they’ve mostly abandoned Krylon. They seem to spend more time cluttering up the power poles with litter about anarchist events no one attends. I mean, how can you organize an event if you’re an anarchist?

    It’s too bad taggers can’t use spell check on their tags, or maybe they’re just taking illiteracy to new heights. I’ll always have a fond place in my heart, though, for whoever changed the spelling of the street sign from “Lane Street” to “Lame Street.” Gone, too soon.

    Still, since we can’t pay for upkeep of basic infrastructure, maybe we should just open up all public buildings to tagging, inside and out. But who would pick up the empty spray cans? The taggers sure don’t. Tagging time is usually after the clubs close, aka, “fun time,” between the SPD shifts.

    So, what’s a solution? I attended a small public safety meeting with a couple of reps from the mayor’s office earlier this year where one of the mayor’s aides said the idea was being floated to have “democracy walls” on private businesses in Seattle. There hasn’t been any follow up – seems business owners aren’t enthralled by just anybody mucking up their buildings.

    When I lived in Berlin, The Wall was coated with paint on the West Berlin side – the East Germans and their Soviet allies frowned on graffiti, as they did most things. To the west, the messages were political, artistic, and relevant. Most of what passes for street art in Seattle doesn’t seem to work on those levels. Graffiti is of course going to stay around, and there are some cultures that we know of only because of their graffiti. All that’s left of a society that thrived for two thousand years in the Camonica Valley in the Italian alps is the graffiti carved into rock – there’s a lot of it. One day a Roman legion appeared at the entrance to the valley, and that culture disappeared except for those traces in stone. The Camunians would become Roman, through no fault of their own.

    Here’s the ubiquitous wikilink:




    Since 1961, the number of known carvings has grown from 20,000 to upwards of 300,000. Not to get highbrow about this, but the Italian/Israeli anthropologist Emmanuel Anati who wrote several books about the culture of the Camonica Valley, pointed out that besides depicting everyday life, the inscriptions also record “the whole gamut of the vices of the time.”

    Now, if our taggers would at least devote their energies to recording “the whole gamut of the vices of the time,” well, at least there might be something worth looking at.

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