by Susan Fried (words and photos)
Artist Sam Sneke got a surprise visit from his family on Friday August 22, as he added vibrant red paint to his mural, depicting the words “Power to the People,” created on a wall at the intersection of Rainier Avenue South and South Genesee Street, between Southern Exposure and Baol African Imports and Gallery. Sneke was selected from a small group of artists who submitted examples of their work to a panel of local business owners. A previous mural, which had been there for a few years and was originally painted by members of the Seattle Neighborhood Group (SNG), had started to deteriorate. Emily Trbovich, a project assistant with SNG, said the old mural had really started to look bad and they wanted to figure out a way to involve the community in fixing it.
“The mural had a lot of tags on it and the wall looked really, really bad, and so we were looking through grants that were available through the city and we stumbled upon the [Seattle] Office of Arts and Culture. And they have a COVID Relief Grant which basically gives you a grant to do art or do some type of community project — it just has to be COVID-related.” Trbovich said the businesses she collaborated with included the restaurant Southern Exposure, the People’s Barbershop, The Beacon Cinema, Bana Ethiopian Restaurant, Ola Wyola, and the non-profit POCAAN. The mural, she says, was COVID related because “A: It’s an inspiring, positive message for the community and B: it also serves as a way to pay an artist who’s been struggling through the COVID crisis like everyone.”
After Sam Sneke was chosen by the businesses he submitted four different designs, and the businesses overwhelmingly chose “Power to the People.” Trbovich said that the Seattle Neighborhood Group really wanted to help facilitate the mural but that it was also crucial that businesses at the intersection of Rainier and Genesse made the final decision. “We wanted the businesses along that road to really make the decision, to have that power to be in the driver’s seat. It’s their mural, it’s their community, they’re the ones that are there day in and day out, so we really wanted to focus on giving them the opportunity to be a part of that.”
Artist Sam Sneke started the mural on Friday August 22 and by Saturday August 23 the words “Power to the People” were displayed boldly on the wall along Rainier Avenue, for the community and everyone driving by to be inspired by.
Susan Fried is a Seattle-based photojournalist.