Images of the Pandemic: When Seattle Artists Made Plywood Their Canvas

  • By Jean Sherrard
  • Posted 9/25/2023
  • Essay 22593

A mural with a hopeful message at Kavu, an outdoor-clothing store at 5419 Ballard Avenue NW, Ballard.

"Ballard Loves You" says this mural depicting essential workers, The Market Arms, 2401 NW Market Street. 

The Globe Bookstore owner John Siscoe stands in front of artist Sam Day's Writers at Play and its plywood panels populated with writers, 218 First Avenue S, Pioneer Square.

Until Next Time by Glynn Rosenberg, 5136 Ballard Avenue NW, Ballard. 

Come on Home by Zachary Rockstad, Harvard Avenue East, just north of Pike Street on Capitol Hill, commissioned to commemorate musician John Prine, who died of COVID-19 in April 2020.

Puppies by Ariel Parrow, The Hart & The Hunter restaurant, 111 Pine Street, Downtown Seattle.

Ariel Parrow painting Puppies, The Hart & The Hunter restaurant, 111 Pine Street.

Wish You Were Here by VK and Leo Shallat, Central Saloon, 207 First Avenue S, Pioneer Square. 

Take Your Time by Casey Weldon, assisted by Alexander Halliday and Ego Shoreclay, Bon Voyage Vintage, 110 S Washington Street, Pioneer Square.

Hello by Casey Weldon, assisted by Crystal Barbre and Zach Takasawa, Life on Mars, 722 E Pike Street, Capitol Hill.

House Party of One by Sean David Williams, one of the Comet Tavern's regular customers, 922 E Pike Street, Capitol Hill.

The Pup Pack by Katlyn Hubner, Doghouse Leathers, 715 E Pike Street, Capitol Hill.

Artist Deborah Spencer dressed as Alice in front of her mural Down the Rabbit Hole at the Rabbit Hole Bar2222 Second Avenue, Belltown.

One of Seattle's earliest post-shutdown murals, Stay Home was completed by Carlos Giovanni and KSRA on April 4, 2020, at the southeast corner of Broadway and Pike Street, Capitol Hill. 

Waiting with Paco by Jay Mason, 240 Second Avenue S, Belltown.

Artist Jay Mason with depictions of his wife, Brandy King-Mason, and dog, Paco, at his painted window, 240 2nd Avenue S, Pioneer Square.

Artist Wakuka in front of Regeneration, 200 First Avenue S, Pioneer Square. 

Beauty & Terror by Anne Siems, Harvard Avenue East, north of Pike Street, Capitol Hill.

Quarantine Cutie by Cady Bogart, corner of 10th Avenue and Pike Street, Capitol Hill.

Artists Mari Shibuya & VK in front of Charleena Lyles, Sephora, 415 Pine Street, Downtown. The mural features Charleena Lyles, a Seattle woman shot and killed by police in 2017.

Photographed by Jean Sherrard, a boarded-up, unpainted 1st Avenue block between Main and Washington streets, days after Gov. Jay Inslee’s March 23, 2020, stay-at-home proclamation.

Photographed by Jean Sherrard, the same block of 1st Avenue festooned with murals at the end of April.

Mural by Stevie Shao, 5317 Ballard Avenue, Ballard. 

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee issued his "Stay Home, Stay Healthy" order on March 23, 2020, bringing Seattle to a sudden halt. In the earliest days of the lockdown, Jean Sherrard went outside with his Nikon camera and a fair amount of trepidation, having assigned himself the task of documenting the changes being wrought by COVID-19. "All but 'essential' businesses and services had been closed," Sherrard, a Seattle teacher, actor, and photographer (and HistoryLink board member), explained in The Seattle Times on July 20, 2020, "and my near-deserted hometown carried more than a whiff of post-apocalyptic sulfur" ("Chronicling the Bright Art ..."). 

Inslee's order prompted many businesses to shutter their plate-glass windows and doors with protective plywood panels. Seattle's arts community came to see these panels as blank canvases for artisitic expression. "All across Seattle, great minds were thinking alike. Kathleen Warren, artist and director of Overall Creative, working alongside the Alliance for Pioneer Square, the Ballard Alliance, the Broadway Business Improvement Area, and the Downtown Seattle Association, put out a call for artists to submit proposals for mural art. The response was huge" ("Chronicling the Bright Art ..."). "Thousands of boards are still bare," The Los Angeles Times reported on June 19, "but everyone from graffiti taggers to would-be Picassos are claiming locations fast" ("Seattle is Boarded Up ..."). 

Ultimately, hundreds of murals were painted all over the city. Sherrard visited Pioneer Square, Downtown, the Pike Place Market, Ballard, and Capitol Hill to take the accompanying 23 photographs. Several more of Sherrard's photos appeared in The Seattle Times, and still more can be viewed at the history blog he produces with historian Paul Dorpat,



Jean Sherrard, "Artists Fill the Bleak Streets of a Locked-Down Seattle With Vibrancy and Life," The Seattle Times, July 20, 2020 (PacificNW Magazine), accessed September 20, 2023 (; Richard Read, "Seattle is Boarded Up. This Artist Has Made Plywood His Canvas," The Los Angeles Times, June 19, 2020 (

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