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SDOT, artists to recreate Black Lives Matter mural after man’s botched preservation

An aerial view of a Black Lives Matter mural on East Pine Street near Cal Anderson Park is seen during ongoing Black Lives Matter events, on June 14, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) and local artists are teaming up to recreate Capitol Hill’s Black Lives Matter mural.

City of Seattle, community leaders to preserve artwork from the CHOP

The mural was first created by a group of 16 artists with the Vivid Matter Collective shortly after the CHOP was established, with each letter in “Black Lives Matter” specially designed by individual painters.

Takiyah Ward, a Seattle-based artist with the Vivid Matter Collective, said each artist will be repainting the part of the mural they created. They are working with more durable, industrial-type supplies and techniques provided by the city, so that the mural will withstand Washington’s rough falls and winters for many years. The collective also plans to do more artwork around the city to call attention to Black Lives Matter and other issues of equality.

“Black Lives Matter is not new, it was evident in the Civil Rights movement, it was evident in Jim Crow, it was evident in slavery,” Ward said. “We’ve been trying to make that a true statement in this country for a long time.”

The original artists used a base layer of paint that included a concrete binding agent, but rainy weather prevented them from applying sealant to the mural in the days after it was completed. After the CHOP was dismantled, a man unaffiliated with the artists improperly applied sealant of his own.

The SDOT acknowledged its role Monday in allowing the man to finish applying sealant, describing how the sealant “damaged the artwork, which is now beginning to separate from the roadway in some areas.” It also noted that it found out about these efforts only after he had begun, and “did not stop the work because of a misunderstanding that he was one of the original artists.”

The mural has “rapidly deteriorated” in the wake of the botched preservation effort.

“The Capitol Hill Black Lives Matter street mural is a potent symbol of free speech and civil rights,” SDOT Director Sam Zimbabwe said. “I am deeply sorry that we fell short in our efforts to prevent damage from occurring to the original mural. SDOT is committed to supporting the original artists to restore their work in a more long-lasting fashion.”

As part of a collaboration with the original artists, the mural will be temporarily removed, repainted, and then properly preserved to “make it a permanent landmark” along Pine Street between 10th and 11th Avenue.

“The mural will be just as bright if not brighter this time around … we’re going to be a landmark here in the city, in a real way,” Ward said.

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Removal, recreation, and preservation efforts will be assisted by SDOT Senior Civil Engineer Dahvee Encisco, “who is himself an expert muralist.”

“He will be onsite from beginning to end with the artists to advise on how to install a durable on-street mural with the correct primer, number of paint layers, and adding traction material to each coat of paint that can withstand the roadway conditions in this area,” SDOT said in a news release detailing its efforts to recreate the mural.

Posts installed in July to prevent vehicles from driving over the mural will remain in place as a protective measure.

“It’s huge, the fact that we went from not sanctioned to sanctioned,” Ward said. “We did this thing off the strength of the movement, and the city saw it and decided to make it permanent. That’s not something that I can say would have happened any other time or any other place.”

SDOT also expects ongoing maintenance to be necessary in the future, given that on-street art tends to “deteriorate at a rate much faster than other surfaces.”

KIRO Radio reporter Nicole Jennings contributed to this report.

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