Seattle Dragons

ArtSEA: A colorful noodle spill on the streets of Seattle

One of Seattle’s Memorial Day weekend music mainstays — the Northwest Folklife Festival — is celebrating 50 years this weekend with a hefty online lineup (streaming May 28-31). The virtual mix reflects the fest’s global spirit and includes performances by Balkanarama (party music from southeastern Europe), Joyas Mestizas (Mexican folkloric dance) and the Killdeer String Band (an indie blend of European folk styles).

And while you can’t wander the grounds of Seattle Center to experience Folklife’s diverse mix of cultural traditions this year, you can walk around the Chinatown-International District, where Seattle artist Akira Ohiso has just installed a colorful homage to the many strands of Asian identities in the neighborhood.

Called “SLURP,” his playful archipelago of street murals features eight nests of twisty noodles in red, blue, purple, green and yellow. One clump is accented with a slice of lime, another a shrimp, another a half of a hard-boiled egg. Painted by Ohiso, with the help of local muralist Angelina Villalobos and Seattle Department of Transportation “street art expert” (#lifegoals) Dahvee Enciso, these oversized servings look fanciful, clever and delicious.

Ohiso’s aim was to create artwork that speaks to neighborhood’s cultural traditions by way of a contemporary sensibility. “When visiting the Chinatown-International District, my identity is instantly legitimized,” he writes in his artist statement. “The smell of fresh fish reminds me of my childhood. Still, I crave renewal and yearn for an Asian American experience in the C-ID that survives and flourishes in the 21st century.”

A joint project of the Seattle Office of Arts and Culture and Seattle Department of Transportation, SLURP adorns the neighborhood’s historic Maynard Alley. The idea is to draw people back to the businesses that have been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as by the documented increase in anti-Asian bias incidents.

“This mural is inspired by noodles, stepping stones, the immigrant journey and the diversity of intersecting cultures inhabiting the Chinatown-International District today,” Ohiso writes. “Each noodle cluster alludes to geographic locations, the circuitous route of immigration, and safe passage through the space.”