IDseattle: The Sugary, Sweet, Grungy & Gross Gum Wall
Just as in business, tourist attractions need to differentiate themselves. Whether that is by being the tallest, smallest, prettiest or ugliest, being the “est” of anything is one way to earn notoriety. The other way is to offer something truly unique, and that applies to one of downtown Seattle’s landmarks: The Gum Wall.
It may not have the name recognition of the Space Needle, the first Starbucks or its neighbor, Pike Place Market. But every bit as unique as those, the brick wall adjacent to the Market Theatre has become a living gallery—of used chewing gum.
The wall began to earn its current appearance (and status) in 1993, when theatre patrons began sticking gum to the wall and placing coins in the gum wads for luck. On two different occasions, the theatre had the wall scraped clean, but the gum stickers were persistent. The theatre gave up, first out of frustration and then out of recognition that they could declare the wall a tourist attraction—and that’s exactly what it has become.
Today, the sticky, sugary art covers about 50 feet (~15 meters) of the wall, from the ground to a height of about 15 feet (5 meters). In some cases, the gum coverage is several inches thick, although I’m not sure who would want to be the one who finds out that sort of thing. Besides every color in the rainbow, the wall features several small works of art conjured up by creative chewers.
In many ways, the Market Theatre Gum Wall is Seattle, in all its grunge, dirt, artistry, beauty and creativity. Next time you’re downtown, pay a bit of homage to the wall if you wish, or better yet, leave your own mark on the annals of Seattle art.