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U-District group wins grant to fund three new murals

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U-District group wins grant to fund three new murals

A mural on the side of Joy Mini Mart on The Ave depicts a farmer's market. The mural was funded in 2013 by a grant from the Neighborhood Matching Fund with the Department of Neighborhoods.

The U District Partnership (UDP), using new grant funding, plans to install three new murals in an effort to beautify the neighborhood and build community.

The UDP recently became one of 23 community groups to receive a Neighborhood Matching Fund grant from the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods. The more than $30,000 award will be used to establish a mural program which will install the new artwork.

Planning for the project will begin in December, according to the UDP’s built environment community engagement manager Katy Ricchiuto. The murals are expected to be completed by early summer 2021, and will be spread throughout the neighborhood. The project leadership committee will put out a call for local artists to submit mural designs, and the public will have opportunities to vote on the designs and assist with the installation process. 

“We really wanted to think about a way to beautify the public realm,” Ricchiuto said. “Urban art is a really good way to unite community around something that helps make their neighborhood more beautiful.”

The Neighborhood Matching Fund, created in 1988, aims to strengthen community relationships by providing matching dollars to community-based organizations for projects like community events or neighborhood improvements. The fund’s large-scale project award, the Community Partnership Fund, is typically offered three times a year with awards up to $50,000. To emphasize community buy-in, the fund requires that the recipient organization match at least 50% of the award amount with contributions from the community like volunteer time or donated materials. 

“It's all based around community building,” the fund’s project manager, Karen Selander, said. “We want to support what the community wants to do in their neighborhoods.”

The UDP’s mural project matched over $15,000 in community contributions through projected volunteer hours and donated supplies. The project leadership committee, consisting of local businesses, artists, and community organizations, will contribute a significant portion of the volunteer effort. 

Amanda Hashagen, executive director of Urban ArtWorks, a Seattle non-profit organization that facilitates the creation of urban art, emphasizes that local involvement fosters emotional investment in the community. 

“It instills pride in people that already live there,” Hashagen said. “It’s just a really powerful way to improve our community.” 

Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, urban art has flourished as communities search for ways to connect while remaining socially distant. 

“People are still wanting murals,” Hashagen said. “[Painting is] an activity you can do with your family or your little COVID pod.”

Ricchiuto agrees, adding that the limitations on gathering in large groups due to the pandemic has limited the UDP’s ability to host community-building events, which led to the development of the mural project. Planning and early community engagement with the project will occur virtually.

UW students are encouraged to participate in both the design and feedback process that will take place in early 2021. The call for artists and other community engagement opportunities will be publicized.

“We hope it's the start of a broader program that the UDP can host that creates murals across the district in the long term,” Ricchiuto said. “It could bring people in and demonstrate to them that there’s a lot to the district.”

Reach contributing writer Taylor Zachary at Twitter: @trzzachary

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