Tubs: A Safe Haven for Graffiti

Posted on October 19, 2012, 1:08 pm
3 mins


Rumors have been circulating throughout the University District about the fate of the legal graffiti locale Tubs—generally that it is doomed to demolition. But are they just that? Rumors born from a uniquely collegiate community? Tubs provides a canvas for local street artists and for those wishing to try their hand at a bit of vandalism in a legally sanctioned space for it, but some residents and business owners see the constantly changing appearance and thick layers of spray paint as an eyesore.

A graffiti piece on the north wall of Tubs in the University District, Seattle.

In other parts of Seattle, one can observe graffiti as a means of defining territory or space by taggers, but spaces like Tubs provide a venue for graffiti as art and support the practice and commitment necessary for street artists to advance their skills. The terms graffiti artist, street artist, and tagger are often used interchangeably but they are not, in fact, synonymous. Carter Asmann, a California-born, Pacific Northwest-based artist explains that street artists “are usually more concerned with each piece making a specific statement. While in graffiti, the act of doing so is the statement.”

Regardless of the definitions behind the terms, these artists provide viewers with accessible—and original—art during a usually monotonous commute. Graffiti and street art break down traditional barriers and allow viewers to interact with the artworks. Many have heard of the perhaps inappropriate or unglamorous past of Tubs, but it now acts as a venue for the freedom of community expression and creativity.

Street art from the North Wall of Tubs.

Asmann states, “Graffiti and street art are raw forms of expression. Expression that the artist is so passionate about that he or she risks a lot (legally) to express. You have to at least respect the passion right?”

While the concept of Tubs is not unique, its execution as a graffiti-safe zone marks it as something truly special within Seattle’s urban culture. Next time you drive beneath that graffiti-covered over pass, try to admire the beauty, instead of cursing its existence.

Claire Reiner is a writer, artist and recent graduate from the University of Washington’s School of Art with a major in Art History. She is interested in recent art movements and subcultures (1950s, 60s, 70s) and how they have shaped present perceptions and practices of art. She grew up in Southern California and moved to Seattle in 2010. She is quite influenced by the unique geography of both places and enjoys hiking and exploring the Pacific Northwest. Reiner covers visual art exhibits in Seattle and seeks to contribute to a profound and positive artistic community, as well as encourage people to come out and experience art moments for themselves. Reiner is also the Executive Assistant for VanguardSeattle and handles any press related needs.

One Response to: Tubs: A Safe Haven for Graffiti

  1. C Anderson

    October 23rd, 2012

    Thanks for the article, but who was the photographer on this assignment? Looks like they shot the shittiest material possible. There’s some good stuff at Tubs.