Turn the corner at 25th Street and Pacific Avenue in Tacoma, and youll come face to face with a 20-by-100-foot concrete wall covered in fresh paint.
Graffiti isnt to blame, and misfit teens arent the culprits.
Three artists are working meticulously with small brushes. Using an electric lift, they rise into the air to add the finishing touches.
This is no ordinary concrete wall but rather a mural, its images representing the community and history intrinsic to the city.
The mural is one of 15 completed between 2010 and October 2012. Six more murals are scheduled to be painted by the end of the summer.
The artworks are part of the Tacoma Murals Project, which joins artists and communities with the goal of fighting blight and combating vandalism. About $100,000 has been spent so far on the project with another $50,000 committed for the upcoming biennium.
At the beginning of the year we do a call to the community where different business owners can apply for a wall space, said Tacoma Murals artist Chelsea OSullivan. We usually target areas that have high graffiti or are eyesores.
The nine artists hired by the city are local and work in teams of three to five to design and paint the murals. Large ones, such as the one on 25th Street, take about two weeks to complete.
We took the history of the area into consideration for this mural, Sullivan said. We incorporated brewery elements as well as machines and industry from the district.
The districts historical breweries include the Pacific Brewing and Malting Co. and Columbia Brewing Co., both of which operated from the early 20th century and were located near 25th Street.
After working as a mural artist in Seattle, Janice Warren joined the Tacoma program when it began in 2010.
I used to do a lot of commercial and residential murals, she said. When I moved to Tacoma I saw this as an opportunity. Because of the large size of these murals, you have to work in teams, both the artists and the public. I like that.
Community groups get money to complete a mural from the Tacoma Community Base Services Program or Tacoma Arts Program. Next, a team of artists is selected to implement ideas, help with technical issues and promote the project.
In return, the selected community groups help the artists through community coordination, input of stories and content, and maintenance of the mural after its done.
The mural on the side of our building draws people in. I like it, said Rebecca Stahl, an employee at St. Vincent De Paul Thrift Store at 4009 S. 56th St.
Linda Lou likes it as well.
Its really cool, and it was fun seeing the people paint it, she said. Ive heard a lot of positive comments about it.
The murals run the chance of being defaced, but so far only two have been vandalized in the past three years.
Murals are such a more active way to reclaim space, said Tacoma Arts administrator Amy McBride. Its a way for us to get art in neighborhoods that didnt have any.
The neighborhoods that dont have the time, reason or interest to gather is where were seeing these murals bring communities together. Its great.