Josh Doll has been volunteering with Urban Artworks since 2015, helping us with our website and also putting some paint on walls. We asked him for his thoughts on public art and its role in creating engaged communities:

Tell us about yourself, where did you grow up / how did you find yourself in Seattle?

I grew up in a desert city north of Los Angeles called Palmdale, famous for producing the rapper Afroman and the NASA Space Shuttle, and lived all over LA / Orange Counties after high school. I moved to Portland in ‘09 to finish college and escape Southern California. As much as I love Rip City, the tired Portlandia joke about it being where ‘young people go to retire’ was all too real, and in 2015 I decided Seattle was the next logical step for my career and life in general. Since moving here I’ve been volunteering my time with Urban ArtWorks, and helped launch this updated website you’re looking at.

What was your first experience with murals?

In Portland, I ran a boutique design studio called Band. One of our favorite projects was a pro bono engagement with an annual nonprofit mural festival called Forest For The Trees. Each summer, I ran the website and designed print materials for the event, and also painted a few murals. In 2014, the FFTT founder, my friend Gage, was hired to run the SODO Track project here in Seattle. When I moved up the following year, he insisted I meet the Urban ArtWorks crew. I realized that UA was a great new volunteer opportunity in a new city, and the rest is history.

What inspirations inform your work as an artist?

I’m inspired mainly by the boring minutia of everyday life. House keys, sneakers, lighters, food, furniture, and the like. I like to paint and draw simple things we see every day and don’t always think about.

What are your thoughts about public art as a tool to reach young people?

As a kid who got into a fair amount of trouble when younger, I know firsthand how a creative outlet can be an important release and an avenue for future success. Even if a kid doesn’t have aspirations of being an artist, taking the time to understand the process and red tape behind public art, combined with the act of creation, is an invaluable experience that teaches a whole lot more than how to make paint strokes. It fosters connections with kids’ communities and provides a sense of accomplishment and achievement.

What are some of your past projects that you’re most proud of?

This past year I painted a side of the Richmark Building with a handful of other artists, which was a cool gig and a fun project to work on. That said, the project I’m currently most proud of on an ongoing basis is the Urban ArtWorks website here.

What are some ways that public art helps create a sense of community?

Public art is engrained into humanity as a core part of our societies. We’ve been creating public art for almost all of our history, not only to communicate with and educate each other, but to commemorate our successes and failures. I think that it doesn’t just help create a sense of community, I think it’s an absolute must for a community to thrive.

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