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Friday, May 7, 2021

Graffiti artist brings a splash of color to Bellingham

Shawn Cass, a local graffiti artist, is designing his next mural for Western. He said it would mean a lot to him to represent the school he graduated from. // Photo by Max Gleiberman

 

by Max Gleiberman

For Shawn Cass, a local graffiti artist who goes by the nickname “Pickles,” Bellingham is a canvas for his art. Cass is originally from Arkansas and moved to Bellingham to attend Western from 2005–2008.

Cass’ art is displayed all over downtown Bellingham on buildings such as the Alamo Apartments, Tha Outlet Recording Studio, the Bird Alley and even the Sehome Hill Arboretum. Cass said he has a few ongoing projects, too.

One of those projects is a mural he designed for Western. It has been approved by the city and school, he said, but the project is on hold until he can find a viable place to display the mural.

Cass said he would love to be able to do it on the retaining wall along the Performing Arts Center, and it would mean a lot to him to represent the school he graduated from.

Cass said Western purchased his design for the mural. However, if there isn’t a viable option for the art on campus, the university said he can complete the mural off campus as long as it still represents Western, he said.

“The project will definitely happen,” Cass said. “I just need to find the right place.”

Stephanie Lewis, community associations manager for Son-Rise Property Management, said they hired Cass to do a community-oriented mural on their condo association on Railroad Avenue and East Laurel Street.

She said Cass is a big part of the community and thinks he does great work.

“That’s why I hunted him down,” Lewis said, “He is an amazing artist. We do love his work and it freshens up the community. It’s beautiful.”

Cass’ work can also be found inside Gathering Glass Designs downtown, where his art is on the shop’s display cases and walls.

Melissa Todd, owner of Gathering Glass Designs,  has known Cass for 10 years.

“You give him a picture and he’ll just do it,” Todd said.

Todd said Cass’ art helped create a fun, fresh environment for the store, and she especially loves the holiday art he does.

Cass said he was inspired by professional murals he saw one day and told himself “I can do that.”

A creative person by nature, Cass added he is always fascinated by what people come up with in their heads.

“I like to be the background guy. I give other people the prime spots and I work around it,” Cass said.

One of Cass’ biggest and most well-known murals is Bird Alley, which can be found on Ruckus Road. After receiving positive feedback from the community, Cass said he is happy to have created an environment that is aesthetically pleasing. // Photo by Max Gleiberman

His biggest and most well-known mural is Bird Alley, also known as Ruckus Road, located in the alleyway between Railroad Avenue and State Street, where the backs of businesses have been transformed into bird murals.

Cass said Bird Alley has been a place of refuge for the community, and he is happy to have created an environment that is aesthetically pleasing.

“Bird alley is a real thing. Nobody says, ‘Hey, let’s go to Ruckus Road,’ but instead say ‘Let’s go to Bird Alley,’” Cass said.

Cass said the piece that means the most to him is the mural at East Maple Street on the Alamo Apartments building.

He lived there for seven years and developed a bond with Rita Gordon, the landlord and owner of the Alamo Apartments.

Cass said he was able to do his first project after telling Gordon if he made a mural,  it would stop the vandalism on her building.

After a few months, Gordon agreed to it by paying him with one month’s free rent. When he finished, Cass said Gordon was so happy with it, she gave him another month free.

“She helped get me started, she gave me the opportunity to do a three-story mural on the Alamo, which boosted my career in Bellingham,” Cass said. “That is the most important mural that I’ve ever done.”

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