Splash of color brings life to grim spot
A group of neighborhood leaders, city officials, homeless people and business owners gathered Saturday to celebrate the completion of a mural they say symbolizes that Aurora Avenue North in Seattle is growing and changing.
Seattle Times staff reporter
It's a small blink of color in a long stretch of grayscape on Aurora Avenue North, but a new mural on a convenience-store wall is already making a difference.
The 10-by-50-foot mural shows a sun with green rays rising over one of the more notorious roadways in Seattle, with a purple haze of the fading dawn above and hope, in the form of sunflowers, sprouting from below.
In the mural, a bus, helmeted scooter rider and pedestrians all safely share the street. The real-life street has a high rate of collisions between speeding cars and jaywalking pedestrians.
"It's such a difficult time. People are losing their homes and their jobs. Looking at the mural is just bringing smiles to their faces," said Chaesun Osaka, owner of North Park Grocery at North 102nd Street, where the mural, a community project, was painted.
A group of neighborhood leaders, city officials, homeless people and business owners gathered Saturday to celebrate the completion of the mural two weeks ago. Osaka said, "It symbolizes Aurora is growing and changing."
Artists Zach Bohnenkamp, John Osgood and Kevin Sullivan from Bherd Studios and Matamuros were commissioned to paint the mural.
Several groups donated volunteer hours to the project, including Epic Life Church, Sustainable Green Lake and Greenwood Aurora Involved Neighbors. The Seattle Department of Transportation and Washington Traffic Safety Commission also got involved.
Seattle kicked in a neighborhood matching grant that paid for most of the $2,500 project, according to Jim Curtin, a senior transportation planner for Seattle, who came to the event.
The community is working on bringing life into an area that struggles with drug dealing, prostitution and homelessness.
"Care a little more," Osaka said. She praised the increase in Seattle police patrols, but she also said, "I want the city to come around and talk to people. They are hurting so much."
Osaka moved from the Eastside to Green Lake five years ago when she bought the store. Since then, she has lost five of her customers to drugs and alcohol.
"I've been through so much. I've had deaths, break-ins, robberies," she said. People frequently ask for food, drink, and if she knows where they can find a place to sleep. She is considering opening a soup kitchen in the back of the store. "There are very few resources for these people who need interaction and support."
Even the prostitution, she said, is not what people assume. "They're just ordinary people. They're not bad people. They have kids," she said.
Her business has lost money the past two years, but it's getting better, she said, and the mural has helped.
An adult bookstore is in the retail space next to her, and across the street there's a store that sells adult DVDs.
Keith Carpenter, a pastor at Epic Life Church, said, "There's a sentiment that Aurora is nothing but a sewer pipe," and he's determined to change that. "That's why we're meeting in the theater here and not in the suburbs." The church holds services in the Oak Tree movie theater.
His congregation is working on turning a small empty lot on Aurora into a sustainable garden, with a small patio for live music.
He said when he was a college pastor in Minnesota, he had a dream.
"God gave me a dream to go to a city street with no color, with adult bookstores and strip clubs that brought darkness and dirt," he said. "Three years later, this is color."
Sharon Pian Chan: 206-464-2958 or email@example.com
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