PHOTO ESSAY: Murals — Accessible Art for Everyone

by Susan Fried


There are hundreds of murals all over the City of Seattle, and some of the city’s most iconic reside in South Seattle. Several of those murals have become cherished parts of the neighborhood. Recently, after the Martin Luther King Jr. mural on the wall outside of Fat’s Chicken & Waffles was defaced on MLK Jr. weekend, the community, including the mayor, vowed to work together to repair the damage. Similarly, when the mural celebrating the Seattle Chapter of the Black Panther Party that hangs on the fence in front of Franklin High School was vandalized in 2021, some of the members of Franklin’s Art of Resistance and Resilience Club and several local artists repaired it.

The murals of South Seattle are an eclectic group with depictions of everything from Sasquatches, dogs, and cats to expressions of solidarity, artistic renderings of the Seattle skyline, marine life, and dancers. The art is accessible to anyone driving or walking along Rainier Avenue or Martin Luther King Jr. Way.

The Martin Luther King Jr. mural on the corner of East Cherry Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Way has been there since 1995. This photo was taken in approximately 1997. (Photo: Susan Fried)
The Martin Luther King Jr. mural on the corner of East Cherry Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Way was vandalized on MLK Jr. weekend in 2022. (Photo: Susan Fried)
Artist Sam Sneke painted the “Power to the People” mural, located opposite the intersection of Rainier Avenue South and South Genesee Street, was painted in August of 2020. (Photo: Susan Fried)
A striking mural of a cat and two dogs created by Jesse Link adorns the outside of the Beach Veterinary Hospital in Rainier Beach. (Photo: Susan Fried)
A striking mural of a cat and two dogs created by Jesse Link adorns the outside of the Beach Veterinary Hospital in Rainier Beach. (Photo: Susan Fried)
Youth volunteers work on the “Welcome to Rainier Beach” mural on the abandoned Pho Van Restaurant in August 2021. (Photo: Susan Fried)
A volunteer works on the “Welcome to Rainier Beach” mural on the abandoned Pho Van Restaurant in August 2021. (Photo: Susan Fried)
A colorful mural celebrating Rainier Beach was painted by young people from several community organizations on the former Pho Van Restaurant in August 2021. (Photo: Susan Fried)
A bold, stylized depiction of the Seattle skyline by artist Jake Millet adorns Rocket Community Fitness on South Mead Street and Rainier Avenue South. (Photo: Susan Fried)
The mural on Rocket Community Fitness by artist Jake Millet is reflected in the windshield of a car in the parking lot. (Photo: Susan Fried)
A mural of the Seattle skyline covers the wall outside Rocket Community Fitness on South Mead Street and Rainier Avenue South. (Photo: Susan Fried)
Murals by artist Paul Drum decorate the walls outside the Seattle Cannabis Co. on the corner of South Othello Street and Rainier Avenue South. (Photo: Susan Fried)
Cofounder of the Black Panther Party Bobby Seale and cofounder of the Seattle Chapter of the Black Panther Party (SCBBP) Elmer Dixon attend the unveiling of a mural celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the SCBBP created by the Franklin High School Art of Resistance and Resilience Club in November 2018. (Photo: Susan Fried)
The Franklin High School Art of Resistance and Resilience Club created the 40-foot mural on the fence in front of the football field for the 50th Anniversary of the Seattle Chapter of the Black Panther Party in 2018. (Photo: Susan Fried)
The Franklin High School Art of Resistance and Resilience Club created the 40-foot mural on the fence in front of the football field for the 50th Anniversary of the Seattle Chapter of the Black Panther Party in 2018. (Photo: Susan Fried)
The Sasquatch mural, located on the Parent Trust Center for Washington Children, on the corner of South Walker Street and Rainier Avenue South was created by Ryan Henry Ward (also known simply as “Henry”) and Angelina Villalobos (also known as “One Seven Nine” or “179”). (Photo: Susan Fried)
The Sasquatch mural, located on the Parent Trust Center for Washington Children, on the corner of South Walker Street and Rainier Avenue South was created by Ryan Henry Ward (also known simply as “Henry”) and Angelina Villalobos (also known as “One Seven Nine” or “179”). (Photo: Susan Fried)
The Sasquatch mural, located on the Parent Trust Center for Washington Children, on the corner of South Walker Street and Rainier Avenue South was created by Ryan Henry Ward (also known simply as “Henry”) and Angelina Villalobos (also known as “One Seven Nine” or “179”). (Photo: Susan Fried)
A mural of dancers by artist Lawrence Pitre decorates Northwest Tap Connection’s studio on Rainier Avenue. (Photo: Susan Fried)
The mural of dancers painted by Lawrence Pitre that decorates Northwest Tap Connection’s studio on Rainier Avenue frequently serves as a backdrop to performances by the school’s dancers. (Photo: Susan Fried)

Susan Fried is a 40-year veteran photographer. Her early career included weddings, portraits, and commercial work — plus, shes been The Skanner News’ Seattle photographer for 25 years. Her images have appeared in the University of Washingtons The Daily, The Seattle Globalist, Crosscut, and many more. She’s been an Emerald contributor since 2015. Follow her on Instagram @fried.susan.

📸 Featured Image: Artist Sam Sneke works on the “Power to the People” mural, located at the intersection of Rainier Avenue South and South Genesee Street, in August of 2020. (Photo: Susan Fried)

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