23rd and Union Chalkboard Mural

The Beginning:

Is there something wrong with this picture? The community members of the Central District would argue that there is something very wrong. New ultra-modern buildings planted right next to the homes in which they were raised.  There's no secret of the soaring house prices and gentrification taking place all over the country. But for Seattle, it has become an epidemic. We wanted our voices to be heard, so we took action! 

The Inspiration:

The idea was inspired by Candy Chang, the artist responsible for the "Before I die" blackboard wall. Since the birth of her original idea in 2011, over 1000 "Before I die" walls have popped up all over the world! Communities across the globe have altered the concept to suit the needs of their neighborhood. The journey began with a group of Africatown community members, artists, and the Union Street Business Association. The action team included David Harris, Lisa Mackie, Monica Washington, James Thompson, and myself. 

The Planning:

We hosted meetings, drafted sketches, and devised a plan to make the 23rd and Union Chalkboard Mural a reality.  The important entities that made this idea possible were Umoja Fest, Office of Arts and Culture, Hack the CD, Heart Haven, Africatown-CD, and the Midtown Center. We are beyond grateful for all of the supporters of this project.




The Action Plan:

We got to work! David and I went to Home Depot to get the materials. We stocked up on plywood and a supply of spray paint that would have been a graffiti artist's dream! Job well done for accomplishing this at lightening speed! Next up, we strapped the plywood to the roof of James' truck, threw the 200 pounds of cement in the back, and headed to Umoja Fest. 

Once I arrived to Judkin's Park where Umoja Fest 2015 was hosted, Lisa was all hands on deck! We could not have asked for a more beautiful day. The intense sunlight quickly dried the paint and kept our spirits high through out the long journey. I didn't even mind stepping into a puddle of black paint!..ok, maybe a little ;)   

While the paint dried at Judkin's Park, we went to Midtown Center to pour the cement that would serve as the anchors for the wall. We didn't leave until well after midnight. At that point, Lisa still managed to smile! Big thank you to James, Lisa, and Margaret for donating their Friday night to the cause.

Up and at 'em on Saturday morning, the team didn't stop! I started to spray paint the stencils, Monica meticulously applied the tape, and Lisa went to hunt down chalk. The Umoja Fest Parade was taking place right outside and we received so much love from the community.  Angel Mitchell came through and helped us push through the final touches. While they waited for their turn in the chair, the clients from Earl's Cuts helped us move the eight 50 pound buckets of cement. We truly couldn't have done it without the love from the neighborhood. 

Panel 1: Description of the project 

And just like that, we were all done! Making a conscious effort to use the colors red, black, and green, we wanted this project to represent the original residents of Seattle's Central District. The boards were placed on display and after only 2 days, each line was filled with the thoughts of the community. Check it out:

Panel 2: The community reflects on the past at 23rd and Union 

Panel 3: People share their thoughts about the present 

Panel 4: Ideas for the future

Artwork by Aramis Hamer. Special thanks to Angel Mitchell for her lyrical eloquence 

The wall will be up for at least 1 month.  Head down to the corner of 23rd & Union to make your voice heard! We will erase the board as needed.  Everyone is encouraged to write your thoughts on the chalkboard mural. Thank you so very much to everyone who had a hand in the implementation of this project. 

Did you write on the wall? If so, what did you say? What other interactive public art would you like to see? Let me know in the comments below. 


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