By Rod Lotter
– The Capitol Hill Times -
In the good ole days, most small towns in America had a bulletin board posted outside of the Town Hall building. This bulletin board was usually managed by the community as a way to promote neighborhood events, put up “wanted” posters and advertise many other things.
Over the years, the bulletin board has slowly faded away, but in some corners of towns and cities, they still exist in one form or another. On Capitol Hill, there is no doubt that the wall on the corner of 11th Avenue and East Pine Street is our neighborhood bulletin board.
On that wall you can find street art that ranges from masterful to downright putrid. You can find out about local shows happening next week, or about shows that happened four months ago.
But, recently the wall has become the focal point of a battle between local artist groups and music venues, and the larger-scale, and some would say invasive, marketing tactics of a company known as posterGIANT.
PosterGIANT is a Seattle company started in 2000 by Doug Cox. The company has worked with big names including the Sounders, the Seattle Art Museum, the City of Seattle and Live Nation, which is a bigwig concert promoter for touring bands that typically play at Wamu Theater, the Paramount, the Showbox and other large venues.
The problem with posterGIANT for some, has to do with the tactics it uses. These include plastering up posters along a whole wall leaving no space for other posters, tearing down other venues’ posters and not respecting the community aspect of certain postering areas like the one on East Pine Street, according to members of the Seattle Grrrl Army, a Seattle-based collective of artists, activists, scholars, and, according to their Tumblr account, “hooligans who are really fucking fed up with patriarchy.”
There are some common courtesies that are well known among street teams when it comes to postering, many of which posterGIANT has been accused of ignoring:
· Do not put your poster over another poster unless the poster is for a show that already happened.
· Do not hog all the space. If you do, then some of the posters may be torn down in order to make room for other venues.
· The prime postering spaces are on a first come, first serve basis.
· If possible, use smaller sized posters, as to make room for others.
In response to posterGIANT’s tactics, the Seattle Grrrl Army has been covering over the company’s ad campaigns with its own work over the last two weeks. One of the art installations featured bloody coat hangers and statements about illegal abortions. Other slogans have been put up ranting against rape culture and the “war on women” that is being waged by far-right conservatives. One poster showed posterGIANT owner Cox with a digitally inserted penis in his hand. But, every time the Grrrl Army puts up work, posterGIANT workers tear it down and replace their posters.
While the battle is only a couple weeks old, this is not posterGIANT’s first rodeo. In April of last year, posterGIANT offered a public apology after postering over a mural in Pioneer Square. In 2007, Capitol Hill music venue Chop Suey cut ties with posterGIANT because of a disagreement with the tactics used.
Yet, despite all the hubbub over the wall on Pine St., it will probably come to an end very shortly as the building to which the wall is attached is scheduled to go under construction very soon. Fences have already cordoned off the building, which was previously the home of Sunset Electric, and will be turned into a six-story multi-use building.
While the wall may still remain after construction, as the plans call for the preservation of some of the building’s existing structure, it will likely be the home of a new retailer who may or may not allow posters and bloody coat hangers on its walls.