Jamie Martin & Sue Sung
There has always been a strong debate of whether graffiti is considered public art or vandalism. From the standpoint of the law, it is illegal and needs to be dealt with as soon as possible. However, the traditional laws of enforcing graffiti control do not seem to apply to the old abandoned Tubs building in the U-District neighborhood of Seattle. The building shows how graffiti can be considered as free, community art, and is a unique example of DIY Urbanism.
When Tubs was open for business, it operated as a bathhouse and spa, but was eventually shut down in 2007. After this, the building became an ugly eyesore to the community, with plain walls, no windows, and no purpose. This changed after graffiti artists started spraying the building with their signature marks and paintings, eventually turning the building into a colorful collage of artwork.
This building is unique because it is not necessarily about displaying gang related graffiti and “tagging,” but rather a display of individual works of art and political opinions formed together to make community art. It becomes a place where so many people from the neighborhood are adding a certain style of temporary artwork that will be painted over eventually by some other artist. And since so many people have painted on this wall before, it helps others lose their fear of getting in trouble for adding more graffiti.
Since the fear of “being caught” is taken away, it truly becomes an example of DIY Urbanism because anyone can add to the walls at all times of the day, in broad daylight, not worrying about any repercussions. You can go by yourself, or with friends to add your own touch to the community. So all in all, this place isn’t just an old building taken over by hoodlums, but rather an important and interesting part of the neighborhood that brings the community together through shared art.
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