The Art Inventory

Fremont Public Art Inventory, Part V: Murals

by Kirby Lindsay, posted 9 September 2011


Fremont has several murals, which are often adored to a degree that verges on the realm of obsession.  Collectively, our painted murals reflect as much diversity as our sculptures – diverse artistic styles, choice of subjects and, in particular, their methods of acquisition.

Curiously, the installations of four of these murals form a nearly parallel line, just east of Fremont Avenue.

The Fremont Mural

A mural, created in 1993 by ABZ, in the alley between Lucky's Pho and Tawon Thai. Photo by K. Lindsay, taken Nov 2009

Installed: 1993  Artist: ABZ (signature)  With no apparent reason for being, or public information available about the artist, this enduring piece of graffiti-esque alley art has endured.  Recent defacing marks may endanger its existence, even as it exists as one of the few pieces of Fremont art acknowledging its location.  Located: On the alley side of the building housing Lucky Pho, at 3414 Fremont Avenue North.

Still Life In Fremont mural

The 'Still Life In Fremont' mural, created by Parris in 1994 Photo by K. Lindsay, taken Aug 2011

Installed: 1994  Artist: Parris (signature)  Seventeen years later, the business next door – the Still Life In Fremont coffee house – is gone (but far from forgotten) but the art endures.  It’s continued existence may be due to forgetfulness, or a tribute to the obvious artistic merit of the work.  According to an internet source, the signature of ‘Parris’ appeared on other artistic signs, in Belltown and Broadway, in the mid-1990s.

The original owners of the Still Life coffee house may have commissioned the work, which captures some of the character of the now-legendary, and sorely missed, hangout.  Still Life sold, in September 2002, and after a slow transformation into a fine dining restaurant, the name changed to 35th Street Bistro.  The bistro sold again, a few years later, taking it further from its foundations, but with the mural still decorating the wall and serving as a touchstone with the past.  Located:  On the north-facing wall of 3424 Fremont Avenue North.

The Aurora Bridge Mural (a.k.a. The Bridge Way Mural)

A detail of the 'Aurora Bridge Mural' created by Patrick Gabriel in 1997 Photo by K. Lindsay, taken 23 Aug 11

Installed: 1997  Artist: Patrick Gabriel  In the mid-1990s, Gabriel attended a Fremont Arts Council meeting and offered to paint a mural along the underpass of Aurora Avenue near Bridge Way.  He said he lived near the site, and wanted to see more there than a bare wall.  With their okey-dokey, and little else, he painted the mural and saw to its maintenance for a few years until he moved away from Seattle.

The mural, located at a significant Fremont gateway, unfortunately attracts vandals.  A few times the damage has covered so much of the surface that community-wide alarms went out for painting parties and action.  The most recent alarm (extensively covered in the, particularly on August 12, 2011) unearthed an e-mail, written by Gabriel to a concerned neighborhood representative, expressing frustration over the condition of the mural, and his desire to see it removed permanently.  At this time, it appears, the Fremont community has inherited another piece of art work.  Located:  Under Aurora Avenue/Highway 99 at North 38th Street, facing south.

The 46th Street Mural

A section of the 46th Street underpass, in Feb 2010. Photo by K. Lindsay

Dedicated: August, 2010  Artist: Todd Lown  The existence of this mural reflects the very best in community activism, and what can be accomplished through the City of Seattle Department of Neighborhoods Matching Grant program

Citizens of Fremont/Wallingford (or Wallingford/Fremont) residing around the 46th Street underpass of Aurora Avenue decided to revitalize their area, for the benefit of all the people who pass by there.  A steering committee led the effort, including Linda Clifton, Matt Gasperich, Leah Eister-Hargrave, Charlie Cunniff, Craig van den Bosch, Deborah Bell, Gerald X. Diamond, and Eric Wahl. 

A section of the 46th Street underpass, in Aug 2011, with the mural by Todd Lown. Photo by K. Lindsay

Using an entirely public process they selected an artist, the matching grant spurred on donations, and volunteers (plus youth working through Urban ArtWorks) painted it in following the outline – with a lot of hands-on, detail work done personally by Lown.  Located:  Under Aurora Avenue/Highway 99 at North 46th Street, facing south.

Maintenance Means Everything

Murals may be one of the easiest forms of art to create – in gaining permission and installation – but they also face easiest extinction.  Over the last thirty years, Fremont has lost murals due to neglect, change of ownership/occupancy of the structure and/or severe damage.

For those who wish to see these images enjoyed by future generations of Fremonsters, preservation efforts can be led by anyone willing to put a hand to a paint brush, and/or a pocketbook.

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©2011 Kirby Lindsay.  This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws.  Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.


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