Volunteers brighten lives with paint at Union Hotel
Two dozen volunteers spent Saturday painting the supportive housing unit at the Union Hotel a mix of peach pink, smoky blue and butter yellow. The effort, part of the "Live in Colors" project, will continue next Saturday.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Kenny Taylor stopped in his tracks after entering his home Saturday morning.
"Wow, what a change," said Taylor, 53, gesturing to the commotion in the lobby of the "supportive housing" facility at the Union Hotel on Third Avenue in downtown Seattle. "This is too cool."
Two dozen people he didn't know were painting the lobby's pale tan walls peach pink, smoky blue and butter yellow. Volunteers ranging from a 5-year-old girl to men in their 60s participated in the painting, which began Saturday and will continue next Saturday.
It's part of a project called "Live in Colors." Volunteers plan to paint all eight Downtown Emergency Service Center (DESC) supportive housing sites this year, says the project's coordinator, Madison Park artist Isa D'Arleans.
D'Arleans, a 46-year-old native of France, said she approached DESC administrators about the project in September after months of volunteering at various Seattle homeless shelters and supportive housing buildings. The latter aid vulnerable, often disabled people with ongoing social services as well as a permanent place to live.
"It's that experience, being there in that environment, that I realized what I could do," the artist said. "As I was looking at that bleak environment that was really depressing, I realized I could really make a difference by just painting it with bright colors."
The goal of the project is to use color to change the buildings' institutional feel to a more homelike appeal, said Mary Ann Millican, DESC's director of development.
"Most of us don't have completely white homes and white walls," she said. "I think that adding some color is really going to make a difference to these people."
DESC paid for the paint out of its maintenance budget.
D'Arleans said she hopes to involve schools in the future and make enough noise with the project in Seattle that it will become a national trend.
DESC officials, who serve 7,000 people every year, including 700 in supportive housing units, chose the Union Hotel as the first site for the project. The downtown Seattle building, which now serves 52 disabled and formerly homeless tenants, became the organization's first supportive housing unit in 1994.
At the old hotel Saturday, D'Arleans saw her vision become a reality.
Volunteers young and old applied yellow above a staircase at the entrance, pink along the walls in a lounge and blue around pillars in the lobby. When they weren't painting, they chatted, munched on muffins and took photos of their work.
"Everybody's here, and we're all excited and enthused," said Allan Aquila, taking a quick break from using a roller to paint the top of the lounge wall. "The whole idea is to brighten other people's lives."
Across the room from the 50-year-old Capitol Hill restaurant consultant sat a 7-year-old boy, painting near the base of the opposite wall. Jake Podany, a second-grader at Holy Rosary School, said he was having fun.
"I just love to paint, so it's just fun for me," said Jake, who was there with his dad, Frank, and 5-year-old sister, Eva.
Taylor, an artist himself who has lived at the Union Hotel for 15 years, said he's never seen a project like this.
"This is definitely going to enhance the look of the building," he said, standing in the doorway. "It's going to take away that drab hospital look and make it look more like an apartment. More like a home."
The project resumes next Saturday between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Anyone wishing to help can call Isa D'Arleans at 206-297-7164 or e-mail email@example.com.
Brian Rosenthal: 206-464-3195 or firstname.lastname@example.org
When vice president of Sub Pop Records Megan Jasper isn't running things at the office, she's working in her garden at her West Seattle home where she and her husband Brian spend time relaxing.