by Mark Van Streefkerk
There’s a new mural facing Flo Ware Park on South Jackson Street that will bring even more brightness to the area this summer. On the outer wall of the Seattle Girls’ School is “Find Yourself Outside,” a mural of Black people in a Pacific Northwest landscape swimming, paddleboarding, dancing, camping, and exploring the urban outdoors. At the center of the mural, rising out of a body of water, is a larger-than-life head made of two faces spliced together. The left side of the face is purple and lavender, made of repeating lines and eyes, a recurring archetype in artist AfroSPK’s work. The right side of the face is painted in purple, red, yellow, and cool blues, framed in a halo of curly hair, painted by artist Perri Rhoden. The result is a celebration of Black people in the outdoors and intriguing symbols that inspire the viewer to look a little closer.
Both artists are part of the Vivid Matter Collective, a group of BIPOC artists who painted the Black Lives Matter mural last summer at the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP) and were selected by a partnership with Eddie Bauer and Urban Artworks in February. The funding Eddie Bauer provided is a physical manifestation of their equity statement. The mural was loosely guided by the company’s #FindYourselfOutside campaign, designed to promote BIPOC visibility in the outdoors, but other than that, AfroSPK and Rhoden had creative control.
In an Instagram post about the “Find Yourself Outside” mural, he said, “This was an amazing collaborative piece and opportunity for me and the curly nugget to really come together and create something that we never knew would exist. And to really help encourage our other brothers and sisters to really be outside and get into nature because that’s our space as well.”
Rhoden, whose Instagram handle is @thecurlynugget, also spoke about what the theme of the mural meant to her: “Despite the ongoing genocide of Black Americans in this country, the gentrification and displacement of our communities and families, the inequalities, microaggressions stemming from white supremacy, ridiculous trauma we face, and all of the systematic oppression which rages against us … we are STILL fucking here!
“For me, going outside helps me breathe all of that shit out. Then I breathe in hope, peace, nourishment, and then I find my joy again. Nature helps me find my center and it’s also a place where I can be in community with those I love.”
Rhoden is an abstract and mixed-media artist and muralist whose works are manifestations of Black feminine energy. Paul Nunn, projects lead at Urban Artworks, described Rhoden’s side of the mural as a meditation on literally placing herself in the outdoors. Rhoden paints “a lot of characters that she can relate to — doing yoga, flying a kite with the resist fist on it, or paddleboarding,” he said.
Rhoden’s part of the work evokes a laid-back, celebratory feel of a community gathering as people relax — or dance — on the water, all under the confident gaze of the central face.
AfroSPK’s side brings his own experience to life inside the work. The left side of the giant face is an iteration of an image commonly found in AfroSPK’s graffiti and paintings. It “is a symbol of a person within that helps create growth around it, which in return helps create opportunities for communities to succeed,” explains a statement on the artist’s website.
A beam of light shines from the face onto the bottom left corner of the mural, illuminating a figure with a backpack and can of spray paint who is turned toward the viewer with a mischievous smile on their face, probably about to tag a building. There are buildings and fences in AfroSPK’s art, and the figures within are urban explorers. Just outside the city is a wooded area with a few people either coming from or going into it. AfroSPK also painted a building with a telescope looking up at the face, implying a sense of surveillance. In addition to his art, design, and curation work, AfroSPK has also been involved in Art Vault Seattle, a nonprofit that provides free art supplies for BIPOC artists.
Commissioned murals like “Find Yourself Outside” help Urban Artworks raise funds for their youth programs. Active since the mid-1990s, Urban Artworks has offered programs where young people are paid either an hourly wage or a stipend for arts education or to plug into public art projects. This summer Urban Artworks has five youth programs in the following areas: Georgetown’s Mini Mart City Park, Phinney Neighborhood Center in collaboration with Parkour Visions, Burien in collaboration with artist and writer Sasha LaPointe, a to-be-determined program in Shoreline, and a core program Seattle Seahawks mural.
📸 Featured Image: “Find Yourself Outside” is a new mural across from Flo Ware Park, a collaboration between AfroSPK and Perri Rhoden, both part of the Vivid Matter Collective. (Photo: Eddie Bauer)
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