The "Woo Girls" Street Artist Is Not Hiding from Anyone

John Criscitello Explains His Anti-Gentrification Graffiti and How He's Turned Provocation into Collectible Art

Comments

1
Nice work, Mr. Criscitello, keep it up!
2
As a straight white man who grew up in kent, but lives on "cap hill" this man is a fucking hero. Keep it up!
3
I am a little amused he's only lived here for 4.5 years.
4
I love this guy's style. And he looks great naked, too? Unfair.
5
keep it up man. this stuff is great, and important. i live near the border of the CD/Madison Valley, and i don't make it down to the pike/pine corridor much on weekends anymore. truth be told, i am terrified.

signed,
straight white male seattle resident of 7.5 years, "cap hill" resident of 3.5 years.
6
"Why did they choose to live here? How was it pitched to them? Was it the nightlife? Was it that it was queer-friendly? Because if you can afford a $2,300 apartment, you could easily afford to live anywhere in Seattle"

They choose Capitol Hill because it is the most convenient to their jobs. How hard is this to understand? The majority of the new high-paying jobs are in downtown and SLU. Capitol Hill is directly adjacent to both - you can walk to work.
7
Thanks for sharing your tattoos. Fascinating work.
8
John is a hero. We need this. Fully supporting #teambashback.
9
@Cool wouldn't living in downtown or SLU be the "most convenient" then?
10
What's attracting all these people to Capitol Hill? It can't be all these new bars, restaurants and nightclubs that advertise in the Stranger.

11
This guy is as almost annoying as the people he's targeting. He basically looks and acts like the reviled "hipster-gentrifier" stereotype that everyone hated five years ago before tech workers replaced them as the class target du jour. Some of his posters are all right as poor-man's Banksy agitprop goes, but there's nothing about this guy (other than his gayness) that sets him apart from the hordes of other Seattle newcomers who have decided that the Hill is the place to make their stand against people who arrived a year later.
12
Wow, I guess saying something critical about an artist's work and politics is now a moderating offense, even when written from the left (and lacking any hateful language whatsoever). Was it the word "gayness" o' moderators?
13
Now I'm stuck with my ornery and completely inaccurate comment @12.
14
@11 has the right idea.

"4.5 years" sounds like the same grasping at straws as when kids argue over shit like, "You're 8 and a half years old?? Well, I'm 8 and THREE QUARTERS! HA!!"
15
@11 hits the nail on the head. Like so many contrarian artists, this one paints with a broad brush in a Quixotic quest to slay The Other...
(not going to say how love I've been here because who gives a fuck? it's not a dick measuring contest. the city belongs to all of us.)
16
What do you want to bet that the people buying his artwork live in $2300 apartments in CapHill?
17
I think it's wrong to impugn the motives of people you don't know. Maybe the people that moved to Capitol Hill and live in the fancy new digs are there for the same reason several generations of people have moved there before them. It's a nice neighborhood, centrally located, good public transportation, no real need to own a car, open after dark, with plenty of interesting things to do. For a lot of the people who live in those fancy new digs, the queer aspect of Capitol Hill is also compelling - plenty of them are helping keep the gay bars open. This dude's dystopian idea of the tech drones who never set foot on the street they live on is completely at odds with what's really happening in the neighborhood. The rising rents are definitely changing what it means to live on Capitol Hill, but those who can afford it are showing up for pretty much the same reasons everyone showed up before.
18
@16 yes!!
19
When Amazon collapses due to criminal accounting practices when reporting to the SEC rents and everything else in Seattle will start to come down.
20
I'm glad he's speaking on behalf of many long time Capitol Hill people. I've been in this neighborhood for 26 years and I can tell you, the gritty, eclectic neighborhood has almost completely disappeared. I love his satirical and acerbic work! Keep it coming!
21
I'm a self-identified woo girl. I grew up in the UDistrict and went away for college. Thinking about moving back, I was looking for places in Capitol Hill. That said, I hate Panera bread, I deplore Amazon, and I always loved the community that I sensed in Capitol Hill. My question is, and I'm serious about this, would it be better if I just stayed away? Does my mere presence encourage the gentrification that we are seeing? Is there a way that a pretty basic, straight, woo girl can be a helpful presence or should I just give in to my demographic and go back to NE Seattle/Queen Anne?
22
Another gentrifier against gentrification. Also: fluffy beard and no pubes? Over-curated.
23
Ah, yes! "Hipster" as perjorative. The quickest attack from shlubby, unremarkable, confidence-lacking shitsacks everywhere as soon as a person puts more than 30 seconds of time into their daily appearance. Didn't see that very relevant jab coming.

For the record, the newcomers do not often patronize any relevant or worthwhile businesses on the hill, just the chain stores and idiot bars and whatever Dave Meinert tells them is cool. They'd rather Pony was a Dave and Buster's, I guarantee you.

And yes if you're not queer or a weirdo or have a general respect for the character of a neighborhood, you should stay away, If you moved here yesterday you should take note of a neighborhood's vibe and do "as the Romans do." Everyone is just burning Rome to the ground and building a plastic replica of what they just left behind on top of it.
24
As someone who grew up in Spokane, lived there all my life, and just transferred to UW, I can tell you that if you kiss your same sex partner in the middle of a downtown area, you can feel pretty safe that nothing is going to happen. I said "pretty" safe. There is obviously a chance that someone might be upset about it, but Spokane has become a much more liberal place over the last five or so years. We had a gay pride parade about a year ago that drew something like 10,000 people. For a mid sized town, that's pretty good. There are a lot of bigots in Spokane, no question. I just don't appreciate the sentence being phrased as though everyone in Spokane will want to beat you up if you're gay.
25
"WE CAME HERE TO GET AWAY FROM YOU". Says the little hipster cumstain who's been here for all of four years, LOL. So just one question: as a native Seattleite who lived on the Hill for 20 years--who was born and raised there, babycakes--is there a bar on Capitol Hill where we can go to get away from people like Criscitello, who can't seem to mentally/emotionally exit freshman year of college, and think being here for four years qualifies them to be Captain of the Authenticity Police?
26
Capitol Hill was a place I could escape to as I was the only out kid at my high school on the eastside. I moved to NYC for college and it breaks my heart to come back home and see how much my "safe haven" has changed and so quickly! But posts like these from from the familiar Stranger keep me smiling. Criscitello's work is dead on with the specific heteronormative attacks on queer hangs. Keep up the work.
27
As a ten year gay Capitol Hill resident who is about to be pushed out of my long time apartment by shitty micro-apartments with no parking, I can say I don't give a rat's ass that he's only been here 4.5 years. He's doing a hell of a lot more to give voice to the people & businesses being displaced than many of the lifers who have chosen to ignore the problem and bury their heads in the sand.
28
FOUR years?! Capitol Hill was already starting to turn to shit by then. I've lived in the neighborhood for over a decade so I get the sentiment, but his outrage seems a little manufactured.
29
Real nice roller!
30
I wanna know who does "SPRING BREAK" with the saggy titties. That's my favorite.
31
Maybe its the angle of the photo but his arrow through the chest tattoo doesn't look like it lines up properly. and that annoys me.
32
"Why did they choose to live here? How was it pitched to them? Was it the nightlife? Was it that it was queer-friendly? Because if you can afford a $2,300 apartment, you could easily afford to live anywhere in Seattle."

I'll take that one as being addressed to me, since I'm a straight white guy who works in tech. Here's your answer, dude: I moved here because my friends lived here. And I think that remains as good a reason for someone to move here today as it was for me in 2003.

I mean, you almost had it figured out when you were like, "Who moves anywhere to be near a Panera bread?" -- Exactly. Just take the thought experiment one step further and you'll realize that your new neighbors might actually have legit reasons for wanting to join the neighborhood.

None of which is to say that I welcome the people who come here just to get unpleasantly shit-housed on weekends and occasionally spread hate. I'm not happy about my jacked-up rents, either, but I don't think it's my place to decide who is and isn't cool enough to be my neighbor.
33
Well, he certainly is an attractive young man, isn't he (even if I do prefer my attractive young men to not be so "inked")? And I do enjoy the wittiness and talent of his art. But cities change and neighborhoods change. We can't preserve Capitol Hill in amber.
34
Oh, and I forgot to mention: He looks like a young Ron Swanson!
35
ugh, I hate how any artist asshole whos moved here in the last couple of years thinks they have an intrinsic right to be here and and intrinsic right to tell others not to be here...

That being said his art is cool.
36
As a newcomer to the area brought by tech, my opinion on why masses of people are moving to the area is because there are lots of jobs opening up in the SLU area. Not much of a "neighborhood" after 6pm right now, so adjacent Cap Hill and Belltown are much more attractive, convenient options for us new comers.

Some of us are genuinely interested in getting involved with our neighborhood, but could be thrown off or hesitant when neighbors are blatantly unwelcoming.

It's quite entertaining to be compared to a zebra in a land of forest animals even though Seattle is a motherfucking metro area with people from all around the WORLD. But it's also pretty cool natives and adoptees care so much that newcomers are 'invading', since this denotes a strong sense of pride and ownership of the neighborhood. That's awesome. I'd like to feel that same pride for my new neighborhood one day. Soon.
37
On the "gentrification of Capitol Hill," unless you're a person of color who has lived here since the early 80s you're likely talking out of your ass. Certainly a queer artist who moved to the hill in 2011 is not evidence of a changing neighborhood, dummies.
38
Now you kinda know how Native Americans feel...
39
I wish the artist had remained anonymous and simply let the art speak for itself.
40
"On the "gentrification of Capitol Hill," unless you're a person of color who has lived here since the early 80s you're likely talking out of your ass."

Huh? Are you confusing the Central District with Capitol Hill?
41
Can I go ahead and infer that the people here who are harping on him only living in Seattle for 4 years are also people who don't have a dog in this fight?
42
Gentrification destroys communities. Unless you've experienced it first hand you wouldn't know. Regardless of his length of time on the Hill, he shows he understands how insidious gentrification can be. I visit Seattle every year since moving away in 2003 and it has changed immensely. It's part of growing up, yes, however when certain institutions are pushed out for the sake of something "better", it's a problem. People need to stop getting defensive and examine the system of gentrification and its large scale impact on the neighborhood. Who are these renovations for? Why is there a need for them now? I wonder how this would have played out if another artist did this when the Columbia City and the Central District experienced gentrification (talk about night and day. When I first went to Columbia City 5 years ago, I was like "where did all these white people come from"?). If you didn't catch the tea, I grew up in Seattle, lived on Capitol Hill and in the U-District. Graduated high school in 2003 and moved to the East Coast.
43
tclaiborne dear, what is the remedy to gentrification? Should people not be allowed to sell at a profit? Shall new people not be allowed in town? Should we subsidize existing neighborhoods so that people can remain? If so, what is the funding mechanism, and who gets their housing when they die or decide that they don't want to live in the community any longer?

Everyone has simple-minded sound bytes like "Rent Control", and cartoonish villians like "rich white people" and "tech workers". When City Government floats solutions like creating "workforce housing" to augment Yesler Terrace, so I would really like to know - what can be done?
44
Oops, that should read "When City Government floats solutions like creating "workforce housing" to augment Yesler Terrace everyone blows a fuse"
45
I love your work, Mr. Criscitello!
46
Remind me again, where was I reading all this pro-density sentiment?

http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/how-c…

" Over the past few years, however, opposition to new construction on Capitol Hill has subsided. The Press Apartments didn't devastate the Pike-Pine corridor, as some predicted. Instead, that sliver of Capitol Hill is thriving. And this fall, the mayor submitted legislation that could boost Broadway's building heights, and the neighborhood Stewardship Council recently passed on a chance to appeal the proposal.

Capitol Hill has learned that the benefits of density outweigh the annoyances, and the neighborhood has gotten smart about demanding smart density--including more interesting buildings, like the Braeburn--instead of blocking it. If only other urban nodes--like Northgate or West Seattle--would follow suit."
47
As a 3 year old I marched down Broadway in pride parades, visited my gay uncles here since the early 80's, moved to the hill into my own place 2000, I don't claim ownership of this place, although I did have a community that has fled because of the rent and there just there is no where left for artists to turn. Cities used to have areas where artists could live, work part time at tending bar or in construction and still have time for our work. No more. Creatives are making less, whatever jobs are playing less and rent is 300% more expensive than it was a decade ago. So we are upset. I am homeless, and if it wasn't for Amazon money I would have a place to live. So that's why we are angry. I don't care if Criscitello has only been here for four years. His art expresses my story and the people who have been here for decades. You don't have to be a refuge to tell the story of a refuge.
48
@47 It's not amazon money, its the lack of any real rent regulations in WA state. Its the hatred of taxes. It's voters time and time voting against taxes/buses/education, etc.

Blaming Tech workers, most of whom are young and vote for taxes/buses/education, just causes they have the money doesn't help the situation.

Tech workers are getting priced out of houses by rich foreigners. Artists and the gay community are getting priced out of Capitol Hill by Tech Workers. People of colour are getting priced out of CD/South Seattle by Artists and the gay community...And each group blames the group a head of it, when we're all getting screwed by the real lack of regulation and income inequality (our regressive tax system) and the real 1% keeps getting more and more...

So we can either keep having a class warfare between the classes, or we can get our act together and make things better.

Why isn't the Stranger pushing for housing regulation? Both the Mayor and CM Sawant have plans, why aren' these being covered more?
49
@48 It is already too late. The wealth inequality between tech workers and artists is 5 to 1, 10 to 1. Artists have similar, if not lower incomes than working class people of color. People get priced out when tech comes in, not when someone gets a grant to do an experimental play in an abandoned loft. Even when writers, cartoonists, indie doc makers, musicians, teachers are doing ok, we're still eating ramen and sandwiches. Only now because people make exponentially more money than us, because tech workers want to be in a "cool" neighborhood that was made cool because we were making work in it... the economy doesn't even compute. We can't even begin to catch up. We can't afford a sandwich at the restaurants for tech folks. We can't get into shows priced for Amazon workers.

Seattle is facing economic apartheid.
50
@49 that's a very short sited view of Seattle. Gentrification of the CD happened of the period from 90-2000, before Amazon (Back when people where angry that the tech companies where outside of seattle and causing urban sprawl). A lot of this was caused by the white bohemian community now being pushed out of Capitol Hill.

Tech workers where one of the biggest supporters of gay marriage. The Tech community and the artist community of seattle have a long history together (Hugo House was founded by the first Technical Writer at Microsoft).

We should have an income tax in Washington. But it's not the new Tech workers who time after time have voted against it (or voted against turning South Lake Union into a park, or voted against taking 1 billion of fed money to fund a subway).

We should have rent regulation in WA (or at least Seattle). But once again it's not the new Tech Workers who voted for the politicians that put our current system in place.

And it's not the Tech workers committing violent hate crimes up on the hill.

Rents where great in 2008, but the economy was shit and a lot of people where leaving Seattle. It doesn't mean that 2008 Seattle was a fair place. But we could work together to make 2015 a fair place...Or we can just keep blaming each other while the developers/CEO's get richer.
51
John Criscitello's artwork is one of the many, many reasons I have enjoyed living in Seattle, and on Capitol Hill, since the 1990s. Public art which challenges the viewer, often in a humorous -- or even hilarious -- manner, both improves the look of our neighborhood, and adds to our civic discourse. I'm glad he's out there doing it, and thank you for publishing this interview with him.

It's not gradual—it's on EVERY corner. Boom! Boom! Boom! Like Dresden, Germany—A BOMBING! Boom! Boom! Boom! Cranes! Cranes! Cranes! There are so many buildings that are still empty.

This is all part of the city's plan to keep Capitol Hill a viable, enjoyable neighborhood as the population of the entire city continues to rise. The simple reality is we need a huge number of new residences, and locating them in a neighborhood with easy access to downtown and South Lake Union makes irrefutable sense.

This can't NOT change the demographic of a neighborhood.

Like any living entity, a city and its neighborhoods will grow and change; otherwise, they will die. Capitol Hill's identity continues to change -- it was not the city's first gay neighborhood -- and we should manage that growth in a way which provides the most benefit to us citizens.

These people aren't leaving any sort of footprint in the neighborhood. They're never actually the person on the street.

Oh, please. I recently moved from a hundred-plus year-old brick apartment house to a new building. In both cases, I see my neighbors out on the street, in the stores, at the bars and restaurants. And I've never owned a car, because I like living in a walkable, vibrant neighborhood.

52
I am bemused by the assertion that gay people, artists and "people of color" are not tech workers.
53
I am bemused by the assertion that gay people, artists and "people of color" are not tech workers.

Snap! What a great takedown of the "we don't want those people in our neighborhood" attitude which belongs in the most gated community of NIMBY-land. Such an attitude is nothing more than the rant of a suburbanite who wanted to be the last person ever to move out there, and now won't stop complaining that other people keep doing exactly what he did.

We all live here because we all want to live here. If we don't get along well enough to all live together here, then we have no "community" to disrupt.
54
@52 agreed! Although sadly very little of the black community in Seattle are tech workers, due to years of systematic racism. This could be helped if we could fund high school computer science classes although we can't even seem to fund high school :(
55
@50 In a "bad" economy, that is a more equal economy so things were more affordable for the working class. Wages haven't gone up for people outside of tech, so for us, our money is worth a lot less.

But thank you for your insight. I wish you all the best creating your community. Unfortunately for me, and many of my friends it is already too late. I don't know where we will end up, but it will be somewhere I can work with my hands and pay my rent with solid 40-50 hour work week.
56
55 dear, in all seriousness, you should check out Tacoma. Real estate is still affordable, and there's all sorts of empty land just west of downtown. Plus, it doesn't smell anymore!
57
4.5 years doesn't give you enough time to log a complaint about the history of that neighborhood dickhead. Go the fuck back home.
58
Being a gentrifier is just like being a hipster. In that nobody self identifies as either - it only applies to other people.

I like this guys work. But who the fuck does he think gentrified NY/Williamsburg? He did. And people just like him.

So he fled NY to then help gentrify Seattle.

Making your art about how other new comers are gentrifiers - when you've only lived in a community 4 years - is the definition of a clueless douche bag.
59
@55, I second 56, Tacoma is actually pretty rad and fairly affordable. Almost made the move myself! A good number of people I know are moving there to start houses, work on art or escape Seattle rents. Bonus: If you're one of the sentimental types attracted to "character" there are tons of beautiful old dwellings.
61
Who is this idiot?
Conventional newbie BS. he's been here four and a half years and he's complaining about people moving into Seattle. what a dick.
62
Can an individual be a "gentrifier"? Can an individual be a "globalizer"? I think it's best not to mix your paint here and stick with a wide brush.

I vote for gentrification as a structural phenomena, and forego personalizing it - however easy (and fun!) it is to hate on privileged tech bros and 'Bellevue bitches'
63
besides being a self promoting prick, he's irrelevant. all his stupid art does is make Capitol Hill more interesting and ultimately more valuable with higher rents.
64
artists should go to work and stop acting specially entitled by being "artists."
65
caution: you are irrelevant, as am I [The Stranger doesn't write about what we do].
66
No special privilege for artists!

(What you say may be true, Sean, but someone has to point out the infantilism.)
67
"My art got over 400 comments on reddit, so I guess you could say I'm kiiiiind of a big deal."

Fuck off to New York you unoriginal hipster prick, and take your unwarranted self importance with you.
68
tattoos! eastside shaming!! vandalism!!!

EDGY!!!!
69
John Criscitello is a tourist. He isnt from here. He isnt a street artist. He is a poser who his only redeeming quality is that he was in the right place at the right time. But its called globalization and its happening everywhere. As being a street artist who first hand has john be a complete disrespectful prick to. Id like to say john doesnt understand some of his actions and when calmly explained too. He didnt get it. So he can take his message and shove it up his ass because globalization is happening everywhere get used to it.
70
Agreed. 4.5 years pretty much means he is one of the gentrifiers. Besides, gays are not fleeing the hill due to rents or bros. They are just moving out to the suburbs to have kids. The same thing happened in many black neighborhoods as the black middle class fled to the suburbs. All I can say is I wish I could get subsidized to work a part time job and spend the rest of my time pursuing a hobby. If I promise to grow a beard and get tatoos and hang around the streets looking cool, can I get subsidized on rent. Pretty much all this guy is doing is making fun of someone different than him. Pretty cutting edge art.
71
Gay people are HUGE in the tech industry. But we're probably not the right kind of gays for Mr. Criscitello. No fats no fems no techies?
72
@50 OMG!!!!! It's WERE, not WHERE. Your post nearly drove me insane.
73
"Artists are the shock troops of gentrification".

This person is the cause of the thing he is opposed to.

The problem of how to keep neighborhoods both cool and affordable is by definition unsolvable, because everybody is cool now, so in a period of explosive growth the demand for cool neighborhoods is essentially infinite, and thus the prices will rise astronomically. No one anywhere in the world has solved this problem. No one ever will.

The reason city neighborhoods like Capitol Hill were ever cool in the first place was because they were abandoned by white flight. You could get a groovy old apartment for peanuts -- why, even unemployable heroin addicts could afford one (Cap Hill used to be overflowing with them). That's not true anymore, because now EVERYBODY wants to live in a hip urban village. It's the suburbs, many of them, that are being abandoned to the poor and the immigrant. That's where this guy ought to go, except that Auburn wouldn't have him).

This twat has a lot of nerve talking about suburbs he's never even been to. Soulless? You don't know what soul is, brah. He also doesn't know anything about LA, where crappy art like his inane pasteups wouldn't get him interviewed in a Taco Bell restroom, let alone a leading hipster newspaper.
74
Also: Seattleites have been moaning about soulless Los Angeles for fifty years, when the real suburb they fear is in their own hearts.
75
Im 36 born and raised in Seattle, went to school on the hill. Get over yourselves!! What the hill, downtown, SLU was in the 80's & 90's is never coming back. Business move in, bring money to the area and some of us trying to live on the cheep get pushed out. Guess what? Southpark/Renton/Shoreline/Lake City/Northgate/White Center all got potential. And if you are not working downtown, why the fuck would you want to live close to that rat race in the first place? No one is entitled to this city, the city will dictate who lives where. I also love the eastside bashing, people its ten f'n miles from Downtown and most of the people living on the eastside have been there longer than you have in your shitty studio on Cap Hill.
76
John Criscitello them gay marriages are legal now. Need a husband?