Community Art in COVID Times
Written by TeenTix Newsroom Writer Joshua Caplan and edited by Teen Editor Kendall Kieras
Historically, art has been used to interpret surroundings, and reflect those surroundings back to us in an encouraging, enlightening, or thought provoking way. This type of art allows for introspection, discussion, and a sense of resonance. A more immediate type of art, without a topical focus, can simply please the aesthetic part of our minds, distracting from the gloom of our surroundings and ourselves. A chance encounter with art, in these distressing and occasionally dull times, can add a small pocket of reflection or joy to one’s day.
In this period of pandemic and glaring inequity, creativity has flourished in many corners. When businesses were forced to close to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and board up their windows to protect their vacant properties, Seattle-area visual artists saw these expanses of plywood as an opportunity to create community-centered public art..
Scores of Seattle artists have donated their time and talent to create hundreds of murals, a phenomenon that has captured the attention of publications around the globe. You may have observed a mural or two on your occasional masked forays into the outside world. But I suggest not leaving mural viewing to chance, instead, why not go on a mural art crawl around your neighborhood? That’s what I did around Capitol Hill. I also received an image of a recent mural in the International District, which has been included here.
The above mural is displayed in front of the restaurant Coastal Kitchen. This mural falls into the second category of art I mentioned above. It is a colorful, dynamic, cute illustration of anthropomorphic creatures doing their thing in a lovely seascape. When I saw this, I had a feeling of warmth. I was momentarily elated by this banjo-playing narwhal. Despite its lightheartedness, art like this has power.
Shogo Ota is an artist whose murals and designs have appeared across the city and world, many have been much larger in scope than this. One thing they all have in common is the attention to detail. The textures in this mural are rich and dense. The shift from warrior, to clouds, to sun, is so striking, and yet it all seems so cohesive. What is “This”? Perhaps it's what our hero is gazing at intently. They seem so prepared, so fearless of what is ahead of them. This mural assures us that we can be fearless of what is ahead of us, too. “We Got This,” indeed.
This is a lovely mural in the International District, and the lovely group of people that worked on it. Many murals made since large-scale protests began have focused on supporting Black Lives Matter, and other organizations and individuals, in the ongoing fight for equity. When many people see a large corporation, or some kind of city government put up a Black Lives Matter mural, it leaves a bad taste in their mouth. This is because of the performative nature of a government which gives it’s officers qualified immunity, or a company which refuses to pay its employees a living wage, claiming to stand with a movement largely against those things. However, small businesses do not have the control over a large group of employee’s lives, or the means to end qualified immunity and defund police departments. So showing solidarity and creating a sense of simpatico for those most affected by these issues, is meaningful.