When people think about Seattle, a number of things come to mind like the Space Needle, Pike Place Market, grunge, and coffee. But on top of those things, Seattle is renowned for its public art.
Did you know Seattle was one of the first cities in the country to adopt a percent-for-art ordinance? This ordinance declares that one percent of eligible city capital improvement project funds be put toward the commission, purchase and installation of artworks in different settings around the city. So far, the collection of public art in Seattle includes more than 400 permanently sited and integrated works, as well as nearly 3,000 portable pieces of art.
My favorite of Seattle’s public art pieces: murals. If you take a walk through the different neighborhoods, you’ll notice buildings, signal boxes and even homes adorned with beautiful, large-scale murals. They’re everywhere, and accessible for anyone to enjoy.
If you’re interested in seeing some of Seattle’s murals, but not sure where to begin, here’s a guide I’ve curated just for you. Be sure to check out the map at the bottom of the post for specific locations to make exploring these works easier than ever.
Greetings from Seattle
A classic, the Greetings from Seattle mural in Belltown is a must-see. A beautiful depiction of the city’s iconic sites, this piece of art is proof you’ve made it to the Emerald City. Find it on the south side of Bedlam Coffee on Second Avenue near Bell Street. You can also find a similar mural in Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood just south of downtown.
Greetings from Seattle mural in Belltown Photo: Alexandra Simon
Love Tetris? This mural is for you. Head to Eighth Avenue and Pine Street for a depiction of this video game favorite created by artist Will Schlough via Urban ArtWorks, a Seattle-based nonprofit organization that provides opportunities for contemporary artists and local youth to work together to create public works of art.
Tetris mural by Will Schlough Photo: Erin Craft
As part of a collaboration produced by 4Culture, over 60 artists have transformed Seattle’s two-mile stretch of transit that is SODO Track into one magnificent piece of art. This compilation of murals spans 32 walls between Royal Brougham Way and Spokane Street, and took three summers to complete. Take Sound Transit‘s Link Light Rail between Sea-Tac Airport and downtown Seattle to admire these masterpieces for yourself.
Above the Clouds mural at SODO Track Photo: Erin Craft
A glimpse a few of the many murals at SODO Track Photo: Erin Craft
It’s hard to miss this eye-catching mural when walking about Capitol Hill. Another Urban ArtWorks project, the Richmark Label murals are definitely picture worthy. They wrap around the entire 11th Avenue and East Pine Street corner near the southeast side of Cal Anderson Park.
A portion of the Richmark Label mural Photo: Erin Craft
More of the Richmark Label mural Photo: Erin Craft
West Seattle Signal Boxes
Artist Desmond Hansen has put his mark on West Seattle through portraits he created on five signal boxes around the neighborhood. His portraits pay tribute to famous Seattle icons, including Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Bruce Lee, Chris Cornell and Layne Staley.
Pay careful attention as you explore other parts of the city as well, as many of Seattle’s neighborhoods display their own personalities through the Traffic Signal Control Box Artwork Program, a partnership between SDOT and the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture.
Kurt Cobain mural on West Seattle signal box Photo: Erin Craft
Room for Change
Located at the Pike Street Hill Climb along Western Avenue, this mural was created by Carolina Silva in collaboration with Urban ArtWorks, Space.City and Seattle Design Festival. Rain or shine, this mural brightens up any walk to Seattle’s waterfront. On the way, be sure to venture around Pike Place Market’s new MarketFront expansion to see even more public art pieces, including sculptures, signage and more.
Room for Change Mural Photo: Erin Craft
If you visit Seattle, the likelihood of you seeing a mural by artist Ryan Henry Ward is high. Henry has produced hundreds of large-scale murals around the city — 200 to be exact. Most of his murals can be found in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood, but also elsewhere throughout the city. This particular Henry mural can be found at Sloop Tavern on Northwest Market Street.
Henry Mural on Sloop Tavern Photo: Bryan Ochalla
A historic movie theater in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood, Cinerama boasts big red and blue murals all along its exterior walls. The murals pay homage to the theater’s rich history and the types of movies that have come through its doors.
Murals on the exterior walls of Cinerama in Belltown Photo: Rudy Willingham
Seattle Doesn’t Settle
Less a mural and more a proclamation, Hotel Max’s 6-foot-tall “Seattle doesn’t settle” wall art on the exterior of the building is an ode to the city’s innovative spirit. Walk by the alley on the west side of the building to catch a glance (and also a picture) of this statement piece.
Seattle Doesn’t Settle mural at Hotel Max in downtown Photo: Erin Craft
For help hunting down these murals around the city, sneak a peek at the map below. And, don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled en route! You never know what other public art pieces you’ll come across on your way there.