SCIDpda’s concerted efforts extend to building community through the enhancement of the public realm. Whether in alleys, on sidewalks, or gracing the walls of apartment buildings, Seattle emerges as a vast canvas inviting local artists and community members to craft evocative works of art. Prior to the completion of 13th & Fir Apartments, SCIDpda and 206 Zulu found opportunity to bring life to the space and offer residents daily opportunities to revel in the visual delights that now adorn their surroundings.

SCIDpda collaborated with Community Roots Housing to develop the 13th & Fir Apartments, and the building’s property management team is staffed by SCIDpda. The involvement of local arts organization 206 Zulu, however, came before the apartment building even existed. The walls of the old King County records building, where 13th & Fir was later built, was the site of the Off the Wall graffiti competition for over a decade. It was only natural that the facades of the new construction would become the next location for 206 Zulu to continue their work. SCIDpda’s Public Realm Coordinator, Julie Yuan, collaborated with 206 Zulu to release a Request for Qualifications, giving artists a month to send in their portfolios before the muralists were selected, and a community inspiration session was held to allow the people of the CID and Yesler Terrace a chance to propose their ideas and vocalize themes that would best represent their neighborhood. Finally, 206 Zulu facilitated the installation of the murals and hosted the artists stay in Washington Hall as they completed each piece.

The team selected three artists groups to create the murals: Community Rejuvenation Project, a group including artists Pancho Pescador, Brandon Gabriel, Stephan Smith, and Desi Mundo, took charge of the west-facing space. Damien Mitchell worked from top to bottom on the 5-panel space on the building’s east elevation. Rough Edge Collective, the duo of artists Maria-Jose (MJ) Lindo-Lawyer and Joshua Lawyer, claimed the largest space – a 1020 sq ft wall facing the Denise-Louie Education Center. Beginning in mid-July, the artists collectively toiled for nearly 4 months to develop plans and install each piece.

"Prophecy" 13th & Fir west elevation mural by Community Rejuvenation Project

Prophecy, the 866 sq ft mural by the Community Rejuvenation Project, depicts indigenous peoples riding canoes that are lead by orca whales and sea life. The piece is a reference to Chief Seattle’s prediction for rising waters to eventually overtake buildings, or a prayer for the return of the land to its original inhabitants.

13th & Fir east elevation mural by Damien Mitchell
13th & Fir east elevation mural by Damien Mitchell

Prophecy is an homage to the traditional canoe journeys that take place each year up and down the western coast of this continent,” explained team-member Desi Mundo, “These journeys have been occurring traditionally for millennia prior to the European invasion and have resumed as a peaceful way for the indigenous tribes to build relationships and share cultural practices.”

Damien Mitchell’s piece on 13th & Fir’s east elevation was completed across 10 days in the middle of Seattle rain showers. Each of twelve panels (not all pictured) is colored with a close-up portrait of a child. Painted in one of Seattle’s most diverse neighborhoods, across the street from Bailey-Gatzert Elementary School, the mural is made to reflect its audience.

“My work is now for the community to enjoy,” explained Mitchell, “I like being able to use my skills as a conduit for ideas through collaboration with various groups.”

Outlet, the piece completed by Rough Edge Collective, visualizes the power art has to free an individual and to provide escape from day-to-day struggles. The mural depicts a woman that is empowered through music, seemingly interacting with sound as a physical entity. The artists described that Outlet took inspiration from the book I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, the first of a coming-of-age autobiography series in which author Maya Angelou utilizes her love of literature to overcome recurring trauma throughout her life.

"Outlet" mural art by Rough Edge Collective

“Art has been a safe haven growing up, and taken us on amazing adventures in life. It’s our belief that this function that art plays is universal and truly powerful,” explained MJ Lindo-Lawyer, “We thought that tackling this subject matter could highlight the importance that art played and continues to play in this neighborhood.”

These murals are not mere decorations; they are meaningful expressions of the community’s identity, struggles, and aspirations. The dedication of the artists, spending months developing and installing each piece, showcases the importance of art as a tool for cultural preservation, storytelling, and empowerment.

As these murals adorn the walls of the 13th & Fir Apartments, they become more than just visual elements—they become integral parts of the community’s narrative. Through these artistic interventions, Yesler Terrace not only preserves its heritage but also shapes a future where art serves as a universal language, fostering connections and resilience. The murals stand as testaments to the collaborative efforts of Seattle’s community and artists to create a more vibrant, culturally rich, and interconnected neighborhood.

The Seattle Chinatown International District Preservation and Development Authority (SCIDpda) is a community development organization whose mission is to preserve, promote, and develop the Seattle Chinatown International District (CID) as a vibrant community and unique ethnic neighborhood. To learn more or donate to SCIDpda, please visit our website.

13th & Fir provides 156 affordable apartments to the Yesler Terrace neighborhood. The building is located in the same building as Denise Louie Education Center, across the street from Bailey Gatzert Elementary School, and near the Central District, Little Saigon, and Seattle University. To learn more or apply, visit the 13th & Fir website.

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