SEQUIM — Recent graffiti at the Sequim Skate Park is leading the city of Sequim to enact a new policy at its graffiti wall, a space intended for street art.
For more than a month, a picture of John Goodman’s character Walter Sobchak from “The Big Lebowski,” a 1998 comedy centered on a character named “The Dude,” has adorned the wall pointing a pistol at viewers.
This has angered some nearby residents of Carrie Blake Community Park, including Sally Harris.
“It disgusts me and my neighbors,” she said. “I don’t think the rest of the community has to look at filth.”
While the image has been up for some time, Sequim City Manager Charlie Bush said he didn’t receive any notifications about it until Feb. 8 or Feb. 9 when he was emailed a picture of the graffiti with no text.
Bush said he was unclear if the resident was angry or impressed so he followed up and learned it was a complaint.
“It is, for a variety of reasons, difficult for the city to regulate the content of graffiti images on our tagging wall,” Bush said.
“To deal with art that may be offensive to some community members and to regulate all content equally, we have decided to paint over the board every two weeks.”
Ty Brown, operations manager for Sequim Public Works, said the graffiti board went up in late 2012 as a way to divert graffiti from the skate park and he says it’s been an effective tool.
“It’s cut down on the amount of graffiti on the skateboard bowls,” he said. “Kids have been respectful of the board and environment.”
Sequim Police Chief Sheri Crain said with this latest image “eye of the beholder” comes into play.
“If it’s something truly offensive, then it’s painted over,” she said. “We want to try to work with [graffiti artists] rather than against them and not necessarily go negative every time.”
Brown posted a sign last Wednesday that city staff intend to paint over the board every two weeks.
He said that “anybody can paint on the graffiti board.”
However, he said city staff would immediately paint over negative imagery such as swear words and/or racist images if they spot something of that nature.
Harris said there are other options for the city to pursue because what’s there now is one of the first things people see as they enter Carrie Blake Community Park. The graffiti board sits on the southwest corner of the skate park next to a trail into the main park and about 100 feet from the main entrance’s road.
Harris said one option is to turn the graffiti board to face into the skate park or offer a contest to local children to paint it and “give them a chance to use their brain.”
“What if [the graffiti artists] decided to put up naked bodies or racist remarks?” she asked.
“You can turn it around or let every Methodist person or person who walks by the park see it. It’s also a real nice invitation to Sequim when the Lavender Festival visitors come to town here too.”
Prior to “The Big Lebowski” image, Harris said the sign read at one point “Dump Trump” but it was painted over.
“If the city [staff] can’t change [the policy] maybe the City Council can,” Harris said.
The Rev. Bill Green for Trinity Unity Methodist Church said they’ve supported city staff installing the graffiti board.
“By putting it up, we’re hoping to diffuse some of [the graffiti],” he said.
Since it’s been up, the church hasn’t seen any graffiti tags, either.
Lianne Zwenger, a mother of three children, said she didn’t notice the graffiti when she brought her children there last Thursday to ride scooters but she said the gun graffiti is a hard issue.
“There’s a difference between playing with a stick and having something that looks like a real gun,” she said.
“We try to stay away from gun play as much as we can with [having] little boys.”
Zwenger said they’ve come to the skate park when older children were there and left after hearing bad language.
“It’s about older kids who need to respect the younger ones who come here,” she said. “It’s about being respectful of a shared space.”
For now, the graffiti board is staying put with scheduled paintings to begin later this month.
Brown said once the pickleball courts go in and other elements of the park are installed such as connecting Blake Avenue to Rhodefer Road, the graffiti sign could move after some further consideration.
For more information on Carrie Blake Community Park, call Sequim Public Works at 360-683-4908.
Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at [email protected].