Rain Activated Murals
Showcasing history and sustainability through art
The Capitol Hill area encompasses over a hundred years of industry, development, and community. What was once the home of Seattle's historic Auto Row – a neighborhood of industry, warehouses, and auto dealerships– is now one of the fastest growing residential and small business neighborhoods in Seattle. Capitol Hill is a hub for arts, people, celebration, and sustainability while still maintaining elements of the natural brick structures from its original auto-row identity.
We asked two Seattle artists to create pieces representing water flow as it hits the pavement. The street murals speak to the history of Auto Row in Capitol Hill as a central shifting point from the neighborhood serving large industries in the 1920s to becoming the small businesses and residential hub that it is now in 2022.
In addition to visualizing Seattle's land use history, the murals also connect history to the story of unmanaged, polluted stormwater flows in the neighborhood, which has become more complicated over time as the built environments have expanded and the neighborhood's surfaces have hardened. Unmanaged, polluted stormwater is the biggest threat to water quality in Puget Sound and to the species that call it home. Green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) strategies that clean and mitigate the impacts of stormwater pollution are some of the strongest solutions to managing the effects of the neighborhood's growing population and hardened landscape.
The murals are designed to showcase history and water management in Capitol Hill while starting a conversation about how to preserve our resources and manage how the Capitol Hill community's resilience and sustainability practices impact the larger Seattle community and the world. By using art to connect the history of the neighborhood's development to the impacts of climate change and water management, we hope to begin a larger conversation about community resilience methods needed to address them.
Learn more about stormwater's relationship to Capitol Hill and the GSI methods used to build environmental resilience here.
Hover to reveal artwork
"Beautiful Reminiscence" by Amol Saraf
A Precious Life shows the sun and water in an abstract and contemporary form. Amol's mural takes us through hundreds of years of history on the Hill. He uses a semi-circle to represent the sun, the soul of our universe, and a critical element to the Coast Salish peoples, whose ancestors resided in Seattle since time immemorial. The semi-circle shown repeatedly represents wheels moving through the streets and pays tribute to the original identity of auto-row as an automotive industry. The repeated design of wheels within the shape of the sun highlights the transition of the land's use from one community to another, speaking to the resilience of the space as it serves its residents in different forms over time. The curves within the design represent water and waves. This piece shows water as the catalyst that allows land to shift its structure to serve the many people who have lived and continue to thrive on its resources.
"Rainfall" by Lourdes Jackson
In his piece Rainfall, Lourdes represented elements of Seattle's climate and environment. Seattle's annual rainfall lends itself to our incredible Puget Pound and countless lakes around the Pacific Northwest region. Recognizing that over 71% of the earth's surface is covered in water, Lourdes designed a piece specific to Seattle's direct connection to the earth's water composition. He includes a graphic of the world but notes that the significance of his work is its location, representing an anchoring to the world as water flows down the Capitol Hill streets to connect with the rest of the world's water supply. The symbolism of Lourde's piece speaks to the connection between the built environments and the natural environment. Showcasing that now, in Capitol Hill, stormwater must pass through the built environment to connect with the world. Making it even more important that the built environments the water passes through are as clean as possible so that toxins aren't carried through the water in Capitol Hill to water the rest of the world.
Meet the artists
Amol’s mission is to enhance the beauty of the world by creating exclusive, sustainable, and eco-friendly works of art for compassionate art-loving communities across various cultures. He is strongly inspired by the nature of both humans and environments.
His 30-plus years of career experience is spread internationally between India, Japan, Sweden, China, Russia, etc. He has participated in residencies, workshops, exhibitions, and public art shows across the globe. Amol is a multifaceted artist and loves to work in all mediums and with all types of materials to make his artistic visions come to life.
A note from the artist:
"This project would be a starting point for me to create a personal relationship with the place.
"Public places are an inspiration in itself to work around as the sites are exposed to great number of diverse population every day. For each project I enjoy creating a unique pieces of art that are inspirational and meaningful so that visitors would enjoy the positive spirit, vital message depicted visually and the beauty of the artwork."
Lourdes has resided in Tacoma, Washington for 16 years. He is a pencil/charcoal artist, painter, and designer. He creates artwork that reflect his life experiences and hopes that as a black male artist, he can inspire future artists that black excellence can be translated onto a canvas.
A note from the artist:
"Being raised in Washington. One of the thing I hear most when I travel is how often it rains. One thing I don’t hear often is how beautifully radiant our summers are. Or how the sight of an orca whale is so magical. I believe it’s something we share here in the Pacific Northwest. Our rainfall is what keeps us unique. And as sometimes it may be a pain, it’s all worth it when you realize the beauty of the foliage and wildlife it keeps us close to."
How does rain activation work?
The CEO of Rainworks, Peregrine Church, and his friend Xach Fisher teamed up with the EcoDistrict to create some of the largest ‘rainworks’ (a combination of rain + artwork) in Seattle. The company turned our artists designs into giant stencils, and then made them come to life with their invisible spray.
Rainworks utilizes the natural occurrence of concrete darkening when it gets wet. A water-repelling coating is sprayed through a stencil onto concrete creating areas that repel all water. Once this process is complete, the next time the surface gets wet, everything darkens except where the coating was sprayed. It's there, in the contrast of the dry, light concrete and the dark, wet concrete, an image is created. Whenever the area is dry, the image will be completely invisible.
The entire process is safe for both the environment and the artists. The formula evaporates without entering the local water system and leaves behind only non-toxic and biodegradable ingredients.
To learn more about Rainworks and to shop their products, check out the Rainworks website.