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.
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.
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.