Charles Mudede might think that old Seattle is dead—save for the gum wall—but there are also signs of new life pushing through the cracks here and there.
When I visited Jupiter last week—the art bar that artist/designer Joe Nix and John John’s Game Room owner Jeff Rogers will be opening this summer in a former jewelry manufacturing warehouse in Belltown—I got the opposite of the feeling you get when your favorite bar closes down: the rush of excitement at seeing what creative people can accomplish with the right space, a lot of work, and a large community of talent to draw on.
“This is not just for us, it’s for Belltown,” Rogers tells me as he and Nix walk me through the near-finished interior. By “Belltown,” he means the close-knit community of artists, musicians, bartenders, and servers who have given this neighborhood its working class/art vibe. Many of those artists have been tapped by Nix to contribute to the renovation of the 5,500-square-foot space.
Plans for Jupiter include two bars, a sandwich shop, a spacious arcade/game room, a vinyl-only DJ booth, 13 murals by artists like Baso Fibonacci and Crystal Barbre, permanent works by six additional artists including Cheyenne Randall and Jean Nagai, and space for rotating art exhibitions and performances.
My tour continues out back door, which opens onto an alley that is being transformed into the Belltown Corridor, an open-air gallery of murals by world renowned artists curated by Nix and Treason Gallery. Artists have been brought in from LA, San Francisco and as far away as the Netherlands to adorn the back side of the bar and adjacent buildings with colorful, eclectic street art that reminds me of the mural alleys in San Francisco’s Mission District.
For Nix, the most exciting part of bringing all these artists to Seattle is “the influence this will have on artists around here. When they walk up and say, ‘Oh my god, I could paint murals like this,’ it’s super inspiring.”
Jupiter is slated for a grand opening in “early summer,” but meanwhile you can see the Belltown Corridor in the stretch of alley between 2nd and 3rd Avenues and Blanchard and Lenora. The alley already contains finished murals by Satyr1, Pursue, Drew Merritt, Joram Roukes, and Nix himself, and murals from other well-known street artists including Tatunga, Hueman, and Shepard Fairey are in the works.
“Seattle’s a bubble that doesn’t really get penetrated a lot by other artists,” Nix explains, “so it’s kind of like this creative pathway.” Now, artists can get flown to Seattle, shown around, and can make connections with local artists.
In return, Seattle gets something far more interesting to look at than a gum wall.