by Mark Van Streefkerk
Over the last two months, a vibrant mural has spread steadily over the corner of the building on South Hanford Street and Beacon Avenue, now known as Feed The People Plaza. Chef Tarik Abdullah and artist Malcolm “Wolf Delux” Procter , co-creators of the plaza, have curated “an outdoor art incubator space” by and for the Beacon Hill neighborhood. Over 80 artists and community members of all ages have contributed to the evolving mural on the north, east, and west sides of the building, which houses Victrola Coffee Roasters and the Mexican restaurant El Quetzal. In addition to being an organic community collaboration, it’s also an homage to the former site of Kusina Filipina, which closed in 2017. The Paraiso family’s beloved Filipino comfort food restaurant was a cornerstone of the neighborhood for almost a decade. Feed The People Plaza has hosted two socially-distanced events so far, featuring local musicians, poets, pop-up chefs, and vendors.
When Kusina Filipina was still in operation, a group of artists called Matamuros painted a mural of flowers on the north-facing wall, but the mural was painted over by the building’s owner. Abdullah and Procter “were just trying to initially beautify a corner that we had thought highly of in the past. Once we got up there it was the energy of the neighborhood that pitched us forward,” Procter explained. “We started just trying to respectfully put some artwork up and it just grew from that point. A true community effort.”
Pop-up Chef Abdullah, also known as “Cooka T,” has been an integral part of Seattle Kitchen Collective, recently cooking up free meals for the community at Coyote Central as part of the Feed The People project. Procter made headlines this summer with his murals on plywood boarding up Seattle storefronts that had closed due to COVID-19.
The building already had a special site before Abdullah and Procter got out their paintbrushes and rollers. A memorial to Black people and others who have lost their lives to police violence — or during actions against it — had materialized in a doorway on the eastern side of the building. Curated by Nina (who goes by only her first name), a barista at Victrola Coffee Roasters, the memorial originally coalesced from leftover protest signs she found on the sidewalk. Alongside the mural, the memorial is both an integrated and companion piece of the community project.
When Abdullah and Procter set to work restoring the beauty of the building’s corner, the first base-coats of paint were donated by Dozer’s Warehouse & Gallery. Curious neighbors approached Abdullah and Procter as they painted, eager to share their memories of Kusina Filipina and increasingly eager to contribute. The walls began to fill with lush images of flowers, trees, birds, butterflies, an image of a server next to a Kusina Filipina menu, and sidewalk paintings of garden vegetables that spilled into the street. “Feed The People” lettering appears surrounded by a sunflower, an owl, and the Afro Samurai cartoon figure. Adbullah estimates upwards of 85 artists have contributed at this point, including his sister Lila Abdullah and artists Aramis Hamer, Ari Glass, Janet Galore, Devon Midori Hale, and Mari Shibuya to name a few. “25 of the artists that are involved are under the age of 10 years old,” Abdullah said. “If you go look at the lower half of the building, on the front side you can see all the work done by the little rascals.”
Neighbors began donating tables, chairs, and even outdoor lights. Hello Bicycle across the street donates water and power when needed. Toward the end of August, Melissa Miranda, owner of Musang and another primary partner in the Seattle Kitchen Collective, approached Abdullah with the idea of a neighborhood “happening” at the plaza. The original purpose was “setting up the plaza for folks to work their way out to see the art,” but the August 23 event quickly became Soulfood Sunday, a full day of food and music. Mumus Kitchen brought rotisserie chicken and fries, Amos Miller and musicians from Love City Love performed live music, Healer and Orisha Priest Omitosin led a Sunday service, and Jeffrey L. Cheatham II read from his children’s book What Happened When Charlie Met Claire?
The success of the event led to a second on September 6, hosted by Evrythng Creativ. Ebo Barton, Rell Be Free, and Leija Farr were some of the poets and performers. Caliste’s Creole Cuisine brought a po’ boy pop-up and local clothing designer Carlisia Minnis of Mac Fashion sold handmade masks.
Other happenings like movie nights, pop-up food events, and vendor markets are all on the drawing board. Abdullah’s waiting for the smoke to clear before planning anything else. Once it’s safe to gather outside again — masked and socially distanced of course — he and Procter are committed to keeping the plaza a grassroots neighborhood space, not a destination venue. “We’re really trying to make it organic, like how it was when we were growing up, to a point where I almost want to write up flyers on a piece of paper,” Abdullah emphasized. “We’re not trying to make it a place where 5,000 people are going to show up. We want to try to keep it as organic as possible, and if people show they show. If they miss out they just gotta keep their ear to the ground because it may not always be online.”
Community members who have ideas for events at the plaza can reach out to Abdullah at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mark Van Streefkerk is a South Seattle-based journalist living in the Beacon Hill neighborhood.
Featured image: Feed The People Plaza originally started with Chef Tarik Abdullah and artist Malcolm “Wolf Delux” Procter wanting to restore and pay homage to the site of the former Kusina Filipina restaurant. (Photo by Mark Van Streefkerk)