Vandalism to murals created by local artists in Federal Way is suspected to be racially motivated, Sound Transit said on Tuesday.
The colorful artworks were installed Aug. 17 near the Federal Way Link Extension construction site along 21st Avenue S. in Federal Way.
Scenes depicted in the artworks — displayed on 5-foot high by 10-foot wide canvases — include Northwest nature scenes, social justice messages, representation of various cultures and more.
Just three days after the murals were installed, Sound Transit officials discovered many of the 35 murals had been slashed sometime during the night of Aug. 20.
“We suspect it is racially motivated by the way the vandalism was done,” said Scott Thompson, public information officer for Sound Transit. Many of the murals feature people of color and “many of the cuts where through the faces in the images.”
“We won’t let this cowardly act of vandalism threaten people’s ability to benefit from the important work of these artists,” said Ron Lewis, Sound Transit’s Executive Director of Design, Engineering and Construction. “Following our nation’s long history of racism and unfair treatment of Black people and other people of color it is critical for us to show our support for change.”
STart, Sound Transit’s art program, is designed to add color and positive energy to the surrounding streetscape while highlighting South King County communities. The program enlisted local artists to create more than 100 murals. Nearly 40 of these unique pieces of public art were installed in August, with more planned to go up in September.
Sound Transit is restoring the artwork and taking measures that seek to prevent any further “disgraceful acts.” Lewis is calling on the community to support the artists and their artistic expressions, which celebrate Federal Way and South King County, he said.
Damage was done to works by local artists Jasmine Iona Brown, Lauren Iida, Toka Valu, Tiffanny Hammonds, Sabah Al-Dhaher, and Federal Way’s barry johnson.
“I enjoy making public art because it lives in open spaces where the entire community can enjoy it. Unfortunately, vandalism is the downside of creating public art. This is not the first time my work, that often centers on black subjects, has been slashed,” said artist Jasmine Iona Brown.
“Harsh realities like this are disappointing, but it only strengthens my resolve to continue creating this work. My art is my protest against injustice and inequality. Many thanks to Sound Transit and the other artists for their continued efforts on this project,” she said.
Sound Transit is working with its security team, the City of Federal Way, and the construction contractor to consider methods to protect the murals from further harm, including potential security and surveillance measures.
“This kind of criminal activity will not be tolerated in Federal Way, and we will do our best to identify and hold the individuals responsible for this act accountable,” said Federal Way Mayor Jim Ferrell. “These works of art belong to the people of our city and we’re going to do everything we can to protect them.”
Anyone with information about the crimes is encouraged to text Sound Transit’s Security Desk at 206-398-5268 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.