Organizers will auction the pieces at an event May 13, with proceeds going toward helping the dozens of businesses affected by the March 9 blast.

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Seattle’s Greenwood neighborhood, celebrated for its eateries and art, resembled a war zone with piles of debris and plywood over storefronts after the explosion in March that leveled two buildings and damaged dozens more.

So just days after the blast, a group of artists launched a street-art project to brighten the area’s grim look and raise community morale, painting murals on plywood that cover some of the 53 businesses affected by the devastating blast March 9.

Dozens of artists from around the region, both professional and amateur, eventually joined the project, lending their skills over the past two months to create between 20 and 30 pieces total, said organizer Joey De Young, executive director of the neighborhood’s homeless services nonprofit Urban Hands.

The art includes graffiti, whimsical cartoons and tributes to Seattle. Organizers will auction the pieces at Urban Hands, in conjunction with the PhinneyWood’s BIG art walk, on May 13, with proceeds going toward the Greenwood Relief Fund.

“People drive by and walk by; it’s the first thing that stands out,” De Young said of the art. “We’re all just so much more connected.”

The early-morning gas-leak explosion created a huge debris field around Greenwood Avenue North and North 85th Street and injured nine firefighters. The blast also displaced more than a dozen people from their apartments in a building at 213 N. 85th St. Officials estimated the damage at $3  million.

By late April, the fundraising efforts totaled more than $260,600, the majority of which organizers have already distributed to cover such things as repair costs and lost income of some employees, said Emilia Jones of the Phinney Neighborhood Association.

For some businesses, she said, the repair work has been slow, and they’re facing problems with insurance.

For instance, the Angry Beaver, a hockey sports bar that remains closed due to the damage, is having an “incredibly rough time,” Jones said, especially after intruders broke in last month and stole some equipment.

“The need is so great,” she said, nodding to the mural project as a good way to raise funds. Organizers continue to accept donations online and via mail.

And though time has passed since the initial shock of the blast, neighborhood residents say the community’s support remains strong. Amir Razzaghi, owner of Razzi’s Pizzeria, said the mural project is an example of that support, calling attention to Greenwood’s vibrancy.

“From the volunteers painting the posters, to the fundraisers,” Jones added: “People have turned out in big numbers.”


A caption with  this article, originally published May 4, 2016, was corrected May 5, 2016. A previous version gave an incorrect location for the mural with an animal skull. The mural is on the Sanctuary Christian Reformed Church.