One of the starker signs of the times was St. Patrick's Day on Capitol Hill, when Pike/Pine's party-people corridor was boarded up like a hurricane was coming. The streets, which are normally so crowded it can be hard to walk down the sidewalk, were ghost-town empty at 10 pm. Restaurants are anticipating the possibility of being closed for months and don't want to leave empty businesses vulnerable to yahoos throwing bricks through windows.
"When I saw the boards go up, it looked so bleak and so sad," Stacy Milrany, on the right in the photo above, said about the sight of the Quinn's, Comet Tavern, Linda's Tavern, and Lost Lake Cafe boarded up. Other nearby businesses like Big Mario's and the Wildrose would soon follow.
"I would be doing this at home in my garage," she added. "If other people can enjoy it, I might as well bring it out into the world."
She said she volunteered after the Derschang Group, which owns Oddfellows Cafe, put out the call for artists on Instagram. Asked if she's painted murals before, she said, "This is my first one ever." After being told the Derschang Group would reimburse her for materials, Milrany "went to Home Depot yesterday with a mask on" to pick out colors.
Here's her work on Instagram. She is not used to painting this big. "The biggest I've ever painted is probably 4 feet by 5 feet. This is probably 10 by 10. I was like, I'll probably figure it out, and if not, what do I have to lose? It's so much freedom. There's absolute freedom. I appreciate that they're keeping creativity alive."
She said she wanted to "bring some bright spots and joy. And it's hard to do right now. But I haven't had this much fun in like three weeks."
And the name of that color that she and the artist who was working next to her both happened to show up with?
"The color of the paint is named Cheery," said Bella Pham, on the left in the photo above, who makes art under the name Sadgrrlz. Here's her Instagram. "I wanted to pick colors that make people smile."
"I wanted to provide a distraction from all the nastiness and ugliness that's going on right now," Sadgrrlz said. Asked if she's painted many murals, she said, "This is actually my first one. I usually just paint on canvas at home, or embellish jackets or shoes. I paint on shoes."
The March 20 call for artists on Instagram said:
We are looking for friends, artists, muralists, graphic designers - anyone that would be interested in painting our plywood boards with something positive, something beautiful, thought provoking or funny. Our boarded up businesses may seem like overkill (and we know they look awful) but we truly just want our places to stay intact, and ready to reopen, just in case this lasts longer than any of us expects.
As I was talking with Pham and Milrany, a passing dogwalker interrupted to say to them, "So awesome, thank you guys."
Interviews with the artists were conducted at a distance of at least six feet, but the dogwalker came within like three feet of me.
Milrany said, "I hope more restaurants and businesses do the same if they have to put up these boards." A glance down the block revealed Quinn's was still just boards and graffiti.
This morning, I walked back—solo—to Oddfellows to see their completed works.
Hubbard (here's his Instagram) said it's going to say: "We cannot wait to see you again."
As of this morning, other businesses have not followed Oddfellows's lead, at least not yet.