Seattle Times

“Splash of Color Brings Life to Grim Spot”
A group of neighborhood leaders, city officials, homeless people and business owners gathered Saturday to celebrate the completion of a mural they say symbolizes that Aurora Avenue North in Seattle is growing and changing.

by Sharon Pian Chan, Seattle Times Staff Reporter
October 16, 2010

It’s a small blink of color in a long stretch of grayscape on Aurora Avenue North, but a new mural on a convenience-store wall is already making a difference.
The 10-by-50-foot mural shows a sun with green rays rising over one of the more notorious roadways in Seattle, with a purple haze of the fading dawn above and hope, in the form of sunflowers, sprouting from below.

In the mural, a bus, helmeted scooter rider and pedestrians all safely share the street. The real-life street has a high rate of collisions between speeding cars and jaywalking pedestrians.

“It’s such a difficult time. People are losing their homes and their jobs. Looking at the mural is just bringing smiles to their faces,” said Chaesun Osaka, owner of North Park Grocery at North 102nd Street, where the mural, a community project, was painted.

A group of neighborhood leaders, city officials, homeless people and business owners gathered Saturday to celebrate the completion of the mural two weeks ago. Osaka said, “It symbolizes Aurora is growing and changing.”

Artists Zach Bohnenkamp, John Osgood and Kevin Sullivan from Bherd Studios and Matamuros were commissioned to paint the mural.

Several groups donated volunteer hours to the project, including Epic Life Church, Sustainable Green Lake and Greenwood Aurora Involved Neighbors. The Seattle Department of Transportation and Washington Traffic Safety Commission also got involved.

Read More Here…

Seattle Times

“Aurora Avenue Draws Attention to Art”
by Gabriel Campanario the Seattle Sketcher
March 19, 2010

Sketch by Gabriel Campanario

This empty storefront at 7615 Aurora Avenue N. will burst with new color this spring.
A mural by local artists John Osgood, Zach Bohnenkamp and Kevin “Sensei23” Sullivan will hang in the six large windows, featuring the theme of waking up to a new Aurora — which means dawn in Spanish.

“It’s better than looking at empty space,” said property owner Andy Wang, who hopes the art will prevent graffiti and break-ins and attract new tenants

Cindy Potter, of Greenwood Aurora Involved Neighbors — one of the groups responsible for the project, said Columbia City did something similar in the 1990s and the locations were rented within a year.

Muralist Osgood said 90 cans of spray paint were used to cover the six 8-by-4-foot wooden panels, which will be unveiled Tuesday.

Judging from my sneak peak, the piece looks as promising as the community effort.

More information at

The Seattle Times

John Osgood, one of three artists who created a mural to put over the safety wall where the Greenwood arsons happened along Northwest 85th Street, stirs up some paint while doing finishing-up work Friday morning. Photograph by Ken Lambert | The Seattle Times

“Artists create street mural in Greenwood in aftermath of arsons”

Local artists create street mural to brighten the streetscape of Seattle’s Greenwood neighborhood, hit by a string of arson fires this fall.

December 18, 2009
By Marisa Willis
Seattle Times staff reporter

Trying to heal Greenwood in the aftermath of an arson spree was not on Scott Nolte’s to-do list. As producing artistic director of the Taproot Theatre Company, he had enough to worry about.
The theater was damaged in the Oct. 23 blaze that gutted four adjacent businesses on Northwest 85th Street.

But as the arson continued to plague his North Seattle neighborhood, it became Nolte’s No. 1 priority.

Through creation of an edgy, urban-meets-contemporary- art mural, the Greenwood native wanted to put a little hope into those rattled by the fires. Friends, neighbors and nearby business owners should be made to feel safe once more, Nolte said.

And perhaps most important, he said, he wanted to see people on his street smile again.

Nolte and members of Seattle Mural Art and Bherd Studio set out to create a large street mural splashed with reds, oranges and blues. At its center? A phoenix.

On Friday, John Osgood, one of three artists leading the mural project, applied a few quick bursts of color from a green can of spray paint, as he touched up a section screaming the word “Greenwood.”

The gold and red phoenix in the center steals the show, as it rises from fierce orange and red flames. The symbolism is clear: Just as the bird refuses to succumb to the fire licking at its feathers, so do the people of Greenwood refuse to be torn down.

The mural not only tells the story of the arsons, which includes a firefighter rescuing cats from Cat City, an animal shelter, it also will remind the passer-by of neighborhood icons, such as the Greenwood Car Show and Greenwood-Phinney art walk. The swirls of scenery and narratives represent “everything uniquely Greenwood,” Osgood said.

The 89-foot-by-8-foot mural will soon be installed on a temporary wall near the intersection of Northwest 85th Street and Greenwood Avenue North, where the Eleanor Roosevelt Building stood until the Oct. 23 blaze. The building, which Taproot Theatre rented to four businesses, including Green Bean Coffee House, Szechuan Bistro, C.C. Teriyaki and Pho Tic Tac, was destroyed.
“You don’t really know loss until you’re standing in front of your building, watching it burn down,” Nolte said, remembering firefighters’ bravery and perseverance to save the theater.

Nolte said the gaping hole in the heart of Greenwood’s business district where the historic building had been since the 1910s was a grim reminder of the devastation — nearly $3 million in losses — and the sudden vulnerability inflicted on the neighborhood by arson suspect Kevin Swalwell.

Swalwell was charged with 11 counts of arson and one count of burglary after his arrest on Nov. 13 near a smoldering furniture store in Shoreline. The homeless man pleaded not guilty to all 12 counts on Dec. 1 in King County Superior Court.

“There’s so much that Greenwood has been through,” said Daytona Strong, Taproot communications manager. “This is our new phase we’re forced to embrace, but it’s empowering to move toward something good.”

Instead of getting angry their neighborhood was targeted by an arsonist, residents and business owners, want to be creative, said Osgood.
“It stinks that the arsons happened,” Osgood said matter-of-factly. “But this isn’t going to slow us down. We’re turning it into an opportunity to showcase the artistry of Greenwood.”

What could have been a temporary, graffiti-prone plywood wall covering a demolition site — another ugly eyesore — turned into an emotionally charged memorial, the brainstorm of Osgood and Nolte, and fellow artist Marty Gordon.

Once the plan took shape, Seattle Mural Arts members Zach Bohnenkamp and Kevin “Sensei23” Sullivan grabbed their paint cans and brushes. Nolte said he gave the three men complete artistic freedom.

Osgood said the mural should be completed before Christmas and hopes to have it installed before New Year’s. It will remain at the site of the demolished building for as long as it takes Taproot to decide what to do with the empty lot they originally purchased for expansion.

The main goal of creating something of beauty for Greenwood, however, has already been accomplished.

“We had 10 Greenwood businesses attacked, but we’re not down for the count,” Nolte said. “We’re back. We’re stronger and we’re supporting one another.”

Ballard News Tribune

(Photograph by Daytona Strong/Taproot Theatre) Kevin "Sensei23" Sullivan of Seattle Mural Art works on a mural commissioned by Taproot Theatre Company to be installed at the site of the Oct. 23 Greenwood arson attack.

“Mural created as memorial for Greenwood arson damage”
By Robinson Newspapers Staff
December 15, 2009

Artists from Seattle Mural Art, an affiliate of Greenwood’s Bherd Studios, are creating an 89-foot by 8-foot mural to commemorate the businesses damaged and destroyed by the string of arsons this past summer and fall.
The mural will be installed on the temporary wall along North 85th Street where the Eleanor Roosevelt Building once stood.

The Eleanor Roosevelt Building, which Taproot Theatre rented out to four businesses, was destroyed in the Oct. 23 arson.

Concerned about leaving a hole in the core of the Greenwood business district, and seeing an opportunity to facilitate more art in Greenwood, Taproot Theatre Company commissioned the mural.

“Downtown Greenwood is full of entrepreneurs who have put their all into making this such a thriving business district, full of creativity and artistry,” Scott Nolte, Taproot Theatre’s producing artistic director, said in a press release. “While we’re working on a long-term plan for the property, we want to give back to our community by creating something of beauty for them, something to remind them that this is a special place to live and work.”

In the weeks after the fire, Nolte asked Taproot Theatre’s facilities manager, Marty Gordon, who is also an artist, to look into the possibility of installing a mural.

Gordon immediately thought of John Osgood, owner of Bherd Studios and a co-founder of the Art Up Greenwood-Phinney Second Friday Art Walk.

Capturing Greenwood’s resilience and the assurance that the community will rebound, the mural’s centerpiece is a phoenix rising from the flames.

The mural also depicts firefighters’ rescue of the cats at the nearby Cat City the morning of the fire, Taproot Theatre Company, icons of the neighborhood, such as the Greenwood Car Show and the art walk, and more.

The mural, being created offsite by John Osgood, Zachary Bohnenkamp and Kevin “Sensei23” Sullivan, will be installed soon.

North Seattle Herald Outlook

“Artists add ‘spice’ to Aurora with mural”
November 18, 2009
by Jessica Van Gilder, Staff Writer

Artwork by Zach Bohnenkamp, John Osgood & Sensei23 for ProSki Shop. Seattle, WA

Though it was their first artistic collaboration, once the tops of the spray cans were popped off, the visions of Bherd Studios Gallery artist John Osgood and Matamuros mural artists Kevin Sullivan and Zachary Bohnenkamp just clicked.

In under 15 hours, the three artists spray-painted a 20-by-40-foot mural for Seattle Pro Ski Service, 8954 Aurora Ave. N. – an urban mural complete with an abominable snowman, snowy mountains and the Seattle skyline.

“Actually, one of the best working experiences I had with somebody was this job,” said Osgood of the collaboration. “We all have similar interests and style – where the light’s coming from, color, compositions, lines. Everything sort of flowed together.”


After seeing Sullivan and Bohnenkamp’s work at an art show at the Naked City Brewery & Taphouse in Greenwood, Osgood said he knew he wanted to collaborate with the Matamuros artists. Sullivan, who sketched out the mural, said the key to murals that size boils down to can control and making sure proportions come out correctly.

But apart from establishing can-control technique the most fun aspect of mural painting, according to Bohnenkamp, is the freehand work. Though the artists painted with the guidance of Sullivan’s sketch, the mural was not gridded or projected onto the wall. “Everyone added their own spice to the mural,” Sullivan said.

The open nature of mural art keeps the pieces from being static or restricted by definitive guidelines.

“[With our murals] we all communicate as we’re doing it,” Bohnenkamp said, “and we come up with different ideas than we had in the start. Sometimes we don’t have a plan, and sometimes we do…. But it really happens when you’re at the wall and lots of new ideas come in.”


Since murals by nature are on display to the public, Sullivan said he tried to tie the community into the painting. Apart from cityscape with the Space Needle drifting into the mountains, Aurora Grocery at North 90th Street and Aurora was also incorporated into the piece.

While an abominable snowman on a business’ wall might seem unique enough, Sullivan said the wealth of neighborhood interaction and community vibe with the project made this mural distinctive. “They were definitely into it,” Sullivan said. “We got a lot of community feedback and a lot of good feedback.”

As for public art, Bohnenkamp hopes that’s the direction mural art will continue to go. “There are plenty of places up in that neighborhood that could use some public art,” he said. “In general, that’s really the way I see the future of what I’m doing headed. I’m down to help local businesses, and I’d really like to see more people allowing art in public. It’s good to put something up there that everyone can benefit from and enjoy.”


With a successful collaboration, the artists said they look forward to working together for future projects. For Sullivan, “working with two buddies” couldn’t get better.

“We really just started working together, but I like the way [Sullivan] inks and draws stuff,” Osgood added. “I’m like a little kid. The sky’s the limit.”

The trio will have the opportunity to collaborate again in the upcoming weeks to design and paint a 140-foot wall that will be up during the reconstruction of the four businesses burned in the recent fire at North 85th Street and Greenwood Avenue North. Taproot Theatre Company contacted Osgood about the wall, but the details of what the piece will look like haven’t been discussed yet.

Sullivan and Bohnenkamp are showing their work at Bherd Studios Gallery, 8537 Greenwood Ave. N., Suite 1, as part of the “Urban Presence” exhibit through Dec. 23.