As summer faded into fall, the once vibrant block letters in the Black Lives Matter mural spread along East Pine Street on Capitol Hill were dull. The rough street surface and application of a sealant had destroyed the paint, forming cracks where the paint lifted from the road.
When the police dismantled the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP) in early July, the mural remained one of the only legacies from the 3 1/2-week occupation that centered conversations around racial equity and police defunding. But the CHOP also drew criticism for vandalism and violence and was the scene of several shootings, including two deaths.
This week, the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture and the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) announced it would work with the 15 artists who formed the VividMatterCollective to restore the mural.
“The Capitol Hill Black Lives Matter street mural is a potent symbol of free speech and civil rights” SDOT Director Sam Zimbabwe said in a statement.
On Tuesday, SDOT began removing the paint and preparing the road to serve as a smooth canvas for the muralists. The artists plan to repaint over the weekend and to complete the project before inclement weather.
Artists will receive from SDOT supplies and advice on proper primer and paint layering to ensure the mural’s longevity. Posts erected around the mural in July will remain after restoration.
The mural was painted in the midst of summer protests and inspired by similar street paintings in other cities, such as Charlotte, North Carolina, and Washington D.C. Paint for the original mural was provided by donations from demonstrators and CHOP visitors, according to earlier reporting.
The artists have welcomed repairs to the mural, according to SDOT, in effect “making it a permanent landmark celebrating progress and change during this unprecedented time in Seattle’s history” Kimisha Turner, an artist and member of VividMatterCollective, said in a statement.
Turner painted the “B” in the mural using purple paint and colorful patterns, with the added personal touch of a few handprints. Her 8-year-old son served as her assistant.
The mural will need consistent upkeep because of its location on a roadway. “I am deeply sorry that we fell short in our efforts to prevent damage from occurring to the original mural,” Zimbabwe said. “SDOT is committed to supporting the original artists to restore their work in a more long-lasting fashion.”
In an Instagram post, artist and VividMatterCollective member Aramis Hamer expressed gratitude for the city admitting its mistakes. “We now have the opportunity to do it right,” Hamer said. “This time, it’ll be etched in stone!”