On a dark, unseasonably chilly Thursday evening in August, our car speeds down the I-5 towards Seattle. We stop for a coffee and change out of our office-wear and into our evening wear, tucking our black Kozmos back into the trunk of the car. After fighting the crowds from the nearby arena, we arrive at the media preview for the second annual Seattle Art Fair.
Seattle, already boasting an impressive coffee culture and music scene, has spent the past few years developing its competitive art market—success is due in part to the Seattle Art Fair, which continues to garner international attention. Over 80 exhibitors, local and international, stand eager to speak with collectors and members of the press, the heels of their shoes clicking on the polished concrete. The hall abound with well-dressed patrons holding champagne, we make our first round of the Fair.
The works chosen for exhibition cried out a ghostly song of international anxieties and fears: fear of environmental destruction, of authoritarianism, of terrorism; rage at the refugee crisis and ensuing media spectacles. Paint as black and thick as oil marks dozens of canvasses and sculptures. Seattle’s graffiti shows the city’s consciousness is marred by these same fears, but it carries on, unrelenting. At the end of the evening, as banks of lights are switched off with a heavy thud, we walk out into Pioneer Square.
Seattle at night has many faces: vibrant on one street corner, quaint on the next, lonely on a third. The globe lights cast the historic neighbourhood in the same warm glow that I imagine was present when the first streetlamps were installed in the Square hundreds of years ago. We tow our suitcase along, camera bags nestled on top, and pass another traveller with a matching case on the street corner. Our Kozmos never makes it far from our sides, housing comfortably belongings for two, but most importantly, the camera equipment. We smile at the stranger and gratefully reach our hotel.
In the morning, Seattle bustles—bikes, cars, busses, pedestrians—and we duck into a small cafe for a break from the noise. The owner is behind the counter speaking and teaching French to her customers. My partner orders us pastries with jam and a meringue to go en française and the woman beams. She gives us free clotted cream and wishes us une bonne journée. We leave and pass wall after wall of rich murals.
Downtown Seattle attracts the attention of passersby at every turn. Pike Place, the first Starbucks—tourist lines run long. But bearing the noise is worth it. The free monthly art tours, which run the first Thursday of each month at the waterfront, or the second Thursday of the month in Capitol Hill, are cause for stumbling upon myriad quaint bars and cafes with world class Moscow Mules and earl grey martinis. Seattle is increasingly another cosmopolitan city, but its art culture makes clear its dedication to its roots and its passionate population.
Written and photographed by Megan Jenkins