EVERETT — To find the best new art you have to walk down an alley.
Graffiti artists emptied 2,000 cans of spray paint to transform 16 blank walls into colorful murals.
It’s an act of art, not vandalism.
The three-day Grill & Chill graffiti project in Everett drew 47 artists from Washington and other states.
“We wanted to show the city that graffiti is not a bad thing,” said Jason Grim, owner of Everett’s JAG ArtWorks store. “It’s very artistic. It’s cultural art.”
The event was co-hosted by Grim and the Northwest chapter of graffiti group Graffaholeks.
Most murals are in the downtown corridor, behind buildings such as O.N.B. Automotive Repair on Grand Avenue, Hoyt Avenue’s Rubatino Refuse Removal and Grandma’s in Da Kitchen on Marine View Drive.
The art was done with consent.
“That was the biggest step, getting the trust of the businesses to open up their walls to us,” Grim said. “These are supposed to stay up permanently. We told the building owners if they don’t like it we’d cover it up.”
What’s not to like?
A large mural has a traditional Pacific Northwest scene with an orca, not typically associated with graffiti.
The art was offered at no cost, though several businesses paid for themed murals. The 2,000 11-ounce cans are valued at about $14,000, Grim said. He covered about a third of the bill. Beforehand, it took 200 gallons of primer paint to ready the walls.
The investment was worth it.
“It’s kind of depressing to someone like me to see a wall that’s blank — those to us are just eyesores,” Grim said. “They are something that needs to be beautified.”
Locals take notice. Graffiti mural pics already are all over social media.
Everett resident Alvin Smith stopped to admire a bright mural with a white stallion on a long wall off Everett Avenue between Rucker and Grand avenues.
“It adds some color to this drab alley,” Smith said. “It allows some of these great artists to express themselves in public areas.”
Artists traveled to the event from Illinois, Arizona, Texas, Oregon and California.
“Some of the best of the best,” Grim said. “They all came out on their own dime.”
Many started out like Grim, going in alleys at night, one eye on the painting-in-progress and the other on the lookout for law enforcement.
Grim was an 8-year-old kid growing up in Los Angeles when he did his first tag.
“I retired from the illegal side of things,” said Grim, 33, now a married father-of-two with a third child on the way.
He opened the art store in 2o18. JAG is an acronym for his name, Jason Andrew Grim.
In addition to graffiti supplies, the store sells fine art tools and canvases. He serves as a member of the city’s Cultural Arts Commission.
“What we really need in this town is a free wall or alleyway like in Olympia where people can go out and paint and express themselves and not worry about getting arrested,” he said. “It’s hard for people to practice. Kids are going out to train yards or underneath bridges where it’s super dangerous. They’re going to do it. They need somewhere to do it.”
A board in front of his Colby Avenue store lets people take a spray.
He said the graffiti exhibit at the Schack Art Center has helped people understand and accept an art form often negatively linked to gangs and vandalism. The Schack’s “American Graffiti: From the Streets to Canvas” opened in June and runs through Sept. 5.
JAG ArtWorks has a “West Coast Graffiti” exhibit in its gallery.
The graffiti community is close-knit yet competitive.
“Graffiti artists are always competing against each other in their own little way,” Grim said.
The winner of Grill & Chill’s “Scrap Can Battle” using leftover paint took home a championship belt.
“Like the wrestling belts, a huge oversized belt with big gold plating on it,” Grim said.
The city was not involved in the event.
“Our mayor and police chief were made aware of the project by the artists,” city communications spokesman Julio Cortes said in an email. “We welcome creativity and artists from all over to our city as we hope to continue to be a place for inspiration and creation for art of all kinds.”
Andrea Brown: firstname.lastname@example.org; 425-339-3443. Twitter @reporterbrown.