Dozer’s Warehouse closes as Beacon Arts, Crick Lont, and collaborators show us what’s possible.
by Jessie McKenna
If you live in the South End, and even if you don’t, there’s a good chance you’ve heard rumors by now about an unlikely art gallery—a warehouse on Beacon Hill absolutely bursting with street art, sprawling, multi-wall-spanning murals, and art installations. If you haven’t heard and didn’t get a chance to see the glory of this remarkable project…I’m about to break your heart: Dozer’s Warehouse, a rare South Seattle treasure, held its “Last Hurrah” last Saturday and is now closed to the public for the final weeks Beacon Arts, caretakers of the space and partners in the establishment of Dozer’s Warehouse, inhabits the building.
After Beacon Arts acquired the warehouse and adjacent storefront space for a time prior to its inevitable demolition, Betty Jean Williamson, Board President of the org, asked Crick if he and anyone he knew wanted to paint inside. This is essentially what Beacon Arts is all about—making connections with artists in the community and activating unused (or underused) spaces in the area as art space. Much like the acquiring of the space in the first place, the massive collaborative warehouse art project that became “Dozer’s Warehouse” organically grew out of this simple partnership and an opportunity that evolved into something more than anyone imagined it would.
Many local artists contributed to Dozer’s Warehouse, including They Drift, Charms Won, Perry Porter, and Henry, but among the myriad things that make the project vast and special are the contributions from artists all over the country—along with at least one international artist—and ranging broadly in age. As Crick noted when asked about a tiny room with all four walls painted by the same artist, the work was that of the youngest contributor to the project, 12-year-old “JSF” from San Francisco. “He came up here with his mom,” Crick said with a smile.
It started with Crick and 9 artists hailing from LA to NY converging on the PNW’s Paridiso Festival, many of them with leftover spray paint post-Paridiso—”roll-over” cans many couldn’t take home with them on the plane home—looking for a place to lay some paint. In the end, it was 103 works by 75 artists all told.
“When this started,” he goes on, “it wasn’t intended to be anything other than a place to paint; now it’s a project I’ll never forget. It was great for Beacon Hill, the art community, and the city.”
So how does it feel to be at the center of an epoch of South-End art and community now that his eponymous warehouse is officially closed? “I guess the first feeling is relief,” says Crick, and expresses a grateful disbelief at “how well everything worked out.”
Before (and after) the well-attended and much-hyped opening party, numerous events were held in the building. The eclectic ROCKiT open mic (which some might remember from the “ROCKiT space” community art center days on Beacon Hill) re-emerged here between June and November (until the roof got too leaky for warehouse events) and performers and attendees marveled at the emerging new windows into artistic worlds of wonder as the walls seemed to paint themselves between weekly gatherings.
Glow, an organization that facilitates art-making events for young girls empowerment held classes in the storefront gallery. There were pop-up art-making and rotating gallery shows. The Sessions hosted hip-hop dance classes and cyphers. Da Brown Girls Sessions created “a space for girls of color to find an unapologetic voice through the exploration of movement.” Concerts and parties rocked the building. The place breathed life into the community, and people came out of the woodwork to teach, facilitate, share, and just to inhale it, all against the backdrop of Dozer’s magical warehouse of painted dreams.
Saturday’s celebration of art, artists, and the moment in time that is/was Dozer’s Warehouse, was loud enough to reach the 76 Station on the next block—I know because I had to go on an ice run in the middle of my volunteer bar shift. Passers-by, walking or driving down Beacon Ave saw folx mingling, laughing and smoking outside the storefront gallery and the massive warehouse door (painted with a mural by none other than Dozer himself and Charms Won, who were commissioned to paint it by the Beacon Merchants’ Association back in 2016—which is what prompted Betty Jean to reach out to Crick in the first place). The party celebrated people of color, artists, community, hip hop, cultural awareness, street art as fine art. Not for the first time, it made north Beacon Hill a center of interest and activity, community, and culture.
The event featured not only stellar visual art in the form of paintings and murals but also in sculpture, like the twisting, 3D sectional electric guitar piece by Katie Kurkjy, and unique, street-art-related installations like the huge pile of empty spray-paint cans and an oversized aerosol can tip that almost looks like it could be a modern living room chair.
OTOW Gang represented on stage with rappers Massiah and Khingz and DJ Mic Flont (Crick’s look-alike brother). Rapper and contributing artist Perry Porter also took to the stage. Hip Hop blasted through the main warehouse space just inside the heavy metal door. Rappers got up on big cubes stacked in front of the stage (left over from a previous installation) and used them to get above the height of the audience and see the whole room.
The night was made extra special with the addition of Lusio Lights and other light artists, adding another layer of visual depth to painted and unpainted walls alike. And one last room, its white walls bare at the beginning of the night, was decorated with tags by the end of the night, continuing Dozer’s collaborative tradition thus far, but this time happening live and with an audience. Elsewhere, in the smaller gallery area, hung an entire wall of collaborations between Crick and other artists.
Artists and volunteers sold original art off the smaller adjacent Beacon Arts storefront gallery walls along with prints and merch. Guests were encouraged to take pictures and post them to Instagram with the hashtag “#dozerswarehouse” where, as of this writing, 696 posts already exist.
Hundreds of attendees, from tots to elders (there were even a number of adorable guests of the canine variety), came together to appreciate what Dozer and Beacon Arts accomplished in one short year, knowing full well the 6000-foot unused space, purchased by a builder in 2016 was fated—as the Beacon Arts storefront “TBD” Community Space and Gallery says right in the name—To Be Demolished. (Though Beacon Arts was granted several reprieves by the building owner as the demo date was pushed out a number of times.)
Crick Lont, AKA, “Dozer” of Dozer Art, said from the beginning though—that’s the nature of street art. When your canvas can be anything from an abandoned building or a freeway underpass to a transient train car, it makes sense that one might not have the same ideal of permanence one does with traditional painted works. It’s among the many things that sets graffiti art apart from other mediums.
Nonetheless, the common theme running through event-goers conversations Saturday and throughout the life of Dozer’s Warehouse was about the warehouse murals. The sentiment boils down to something akin to, “Can’t we just, like, cut into the dryway/concrete? Can any of it be saved? There must be a way…I’d buy it!” But the artists made a decision in solidarity some time ago after much thought—sure, some of the art could be salvaged, moved, pieces of the building dismantled and the art re-installed elsewhere. Drywall could be cut, as many suggested on Saturday while they stared in awe at the paintings in the funky labyrinthine upstairs warehouse gallery. And then you could…do what exactly with it?
No matter. It’s not going to happen. And not because it’s a ridiculous idea—it could be done. Some of it, at least, could be saved and re-homed, though it would be cumbersome and messy, to say the least. But there’s no realistic way to save most of it. And Betty Jean enlightened some of these sentimental spectators on Saturday, putting an end to the speculation, telling them simply, “The artists have come to an agreement in solidarity that everything is coming down.”
That is, if any of the art has to come down, it all comes down. They may have built it collectively but it will go down as one—in one big, gorgeous, heartbreaking, breathtaking ruin. Is it sad as hell? Yes. Is it also fucking existentially beautiful? Hell yes!
As I sat, dutifully guarding the green room door (an earlier volunteer shift, I get around like that) to ensure that only artists/performers and their guests went in or out, an event-goer said, “We need more places like this…” and asked me, “Do you know if there are any other places like this in Seattle?”
“Not that I know of,” I said wistfully. Then I thought, I don’t think there’s ever been a place like this. And in a strange and bittersweet sort of way, I don’t want there to be, because this was something truly one-of-a-kind for folx around here. If there was another place like it, it would lose some of that ephemeral quality that made it exceptional.
Says Crick, “Right now there’s no plans to do this again,” and he notes that it likely couldn’t be recreated, that is, it wouldn’t be the same “. . . however something similar could definitely happen,” he says. And that’s my hope, and no doubt that of many other artists and art lovers around here. It’s creative and collaborative rarities like Dozer’s Warehouse that remind us that anything can happen when we put collective spirit and human creativity into action, and we have plenty of both in the South End. In the meantime, Crick plans to focus on commissions and mural projects. You can find him on Instagram at @dozer_art.
Crick said one more thing of note: “The book is coming soon!!” That’s right, there’s going to be a hardcover photo art book folx will have to “stay tuned” to find out about. Follow Dozer as well as Beacon Arts, and watch this space for more on this and other artistic happenings from these movers and shakers, for whom Dozer’s Warehouse is just one in a long line of incredible projects.
Update: Lusio is putting on a fundraiser in the warehouse on Sat., May 14. Many areas of the building won’t be open, but you can see the murals in the main warehouse space if you stop in. Highly recommended! See event details here.
Editor’s Note: Jessie McKenna is an original co-founder of ROCKiT space, now Beacon Arts. She volunteers for the organization and is sometimes paid for associated work. She also works for the South Seattle Emerald in both a volunteer and pay-per-project capacity.