Catherine Anstett


Seattle has become known in recent years as the city with the most construction cranes in the nation. But in March 2020, the city grew quiet.  The Seattle area was one of the first in the United States to be hit with the coronavirus and on March 16 Governor Jay Inslee closed restaurant dining rooms statewide.  On March 23, he issued a stay-at-home order.  Stores and restaurants closed; streets and sidewalks became empty.  Property crime went down in residential areas because people were at home, but businesses and storefronts became targets.  In some areas, windows were covered with plywood as a security measure.
Artists began to paint the shuttered storefronts and then one after another businesses requested the murals.  Business groups in several communities sponsored murals and offered stipends to artists, prioritizing artists from the local neighborhood.   These neighborhood streets became outdoor museums.  By early May, there were nearly 200 murals.
A virtual community formed as artists, photographers and friends shared videos and photos on social media.   AP and Reuters photographers posted images that reached as far as Mumbai.  The Seattle Office for Arts and Culture said, “Throughout this crisis, we have seen community come together and hold each other up like never before. We have watched organic movements take hold that are devoted to supporting those in need financially, emotionally, spiritually, and creatively.”  The murals were an important part of this effort, for the artists, businesses, and the larger community.  A book documenting the murals was published. 
As Seattle artist B Line Dot said, “Art marks moments... this is a moment.”


How to Cite
Anstett, C. (2020) “Artists in the Streets: Seattle Murals in the Time of COVID-19”, The Journal of Public Space, 5(3), pp. 255–266. doi: 10.32891/jps.v5i3.1414.


Art Beat Blog, Seattle Office of Arts and Culture, Erika Lindsay, April 9, 2020 / https://artbeat.seattle.gov/2020/04/09/seattletogether-shines-a-light-on-community-connections/

Artist B Line Dot, Facebook, May 1, 2020 / https://www.facebook.com/blinedot

B Line Dot, Facebook, May 4, 2020 / https://www.facebook.com/blinedot

Jay Mason, Facebook, April 30, 2020 / https://www.facebook.com/JayMasonArt

KING 5 NEWS, January 2019 / https://www.king5.com/article/news/seattle-still-the-crane-capital-of-the-us/281-7f6d9c57-e6dd-4eef-986f-25af5361952a

Sam Trout, Facebook, April 25, 2020 / https://www.facebook.com/sam.trout

Sydney Pertl, Facebook, April 23, 2020 / https://www.facebook.com/sydneympertl