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Landscape Poster – King Kat Theater – 2130 6th Avenue – Seattle, WA

From time to time I hear how people at the far negative end of life’s bell curve sometimes fall through the cracks. While I think the general metaphor of falling makes sense to describe what can happen I don’t find that cracks adequately describes what they have fallen through.

I find that something like a sieve, colander, or net do a better job of conveying that idea. Some get saved, some get tangled up, and some just keep going until they land in the cracks where they can stay stuck for years. Around a city these cracks are those places where the homeless can disappear from the rest of the world, often in plain sight.

Some of these cracks are rather permanent such a wedges of land between a maze of arterial roads or on a smaller scale, under a bridge where the span meets the land. Some are temporal in nature, regulated by the time of day or the day of the week. A doorway at night is commonly used as a bedroom while a library during the day makes for a clean and warm place to be for as long as one can stay awake.

The King Kat Theater, on the boundary between downtown and the Belltown neighborhood opened in 1974 as a movie theater with a single screen. The economics of the movie business killed off that model and today it tends to cater to musical acts that are a bit out of the mainstream and have the ability to fill the roughly 1500 maximum capacity of the King Kat. I walk by this theater on a regular basis and I have noticed, that more often than not, it sits unused.

This last detail coupled with an architecture that provides for two large flat areas on each side of the entrance, dead dry all the time, make the King Kat a pretty perfect place to bed down for the night. It is something of a homeless hotel by providing shelter for up to about 5 people and their gear.

Surprisingly, one day not too long ago, a rather large poster of what could easily be an Ansel Adams photograph appeared on one flat area wall. More surprisingly the building management do not seem to be in a hurry to take it down even though it is very clear that some interloper has performed a hit and run guerrilla art installation.

The first time I saw this poster it was being illuminated by dim security lights that also lit up the sleeping homeless that lay on thin cardboard mattresses placed on top of the pigeon dung that covered the cement floor. For the first time this most spartan and stark place felt less mean.

Such niceties are a rare item in the cracks.

Though I will never be able to know why this image showed up in this place my intuition is telling me that a person with a subtle sense of generosity did this work. All of us, even the homeless, can use a bit of beauty in our lives from time to time.

2012.05.06 Update

I drove by this location on 2012.05.06 and the poster had been removed and the wall repainted. Street art is transitory at best. For what it is worth, this image is the only record of those few days when the the King Kat Theater had a piece of hotel art on display.


About a month ago the notices went up that a two tower mixed use high rise is going to replace everything on the block where the King Kat Theater stands. Within a day or two of the change of use signs going up on the property a crew of carpenters showed up and sealed off the entrance area that had served so well as a homeless hotel. Life got a bit more difficult for them.

Copyright 2012 By Katherine Johnson – All Rights Reserved.