Jul 6, 2022 - News

Fremont's Aurora Bridge Mural gets a makeover

A woman reaches high above her head with a paintbrush to touch up a mural on a cement wall, with columns of an overpass behind her.
Norma Baum has volunteered to restore the mural, which dates to 1996. Photo: Melissa Santos/Axios

The Aurora Bridge Mural in Fremont hasn't always looked its best.

  • Originally painted in 1996 by artist Patrick Gabriel, the mural has frequently been defaced by graffiti.
  • Over the years, volunteers' efforts to cover the unwanted spray paint altered its original design — so much that the artist at one point proposed removing and replacing it.

Yes, but: While recently walking along North 38th Street under Aurora Avenue North, where the 550-foot-long mural is located, I noticed it looked different — brighter, with some images I didn't remember.

  • A few days later, I came face-to-face with the reason why: Norma Baum, who was restoring Gabriel's original design.

What's happening: Baum, a longtime volunteer with the Fremont Arts Council, is a painter. After the mural sustained some particularly bad graffiti damage recently, she offered to fix it up.

  • The Fremont Chamber of Commerce is contributing money from a federal grant — about $2,000 — to buy the paint. But Baum, 68, is volunteering her time.

What they're saying: "This mural has been part of the character of our neighborhood for a long time," Baum, who lives near the edge of Fremont and Ballard, told Axios. "...I just felt it deserved to be maintained properly."

  • The mural features Seattle landmarks — many from around Fremont, such as the Fremont Bridge and Woodland Park Zoo — mixed with neighborhood scenes and fantasy elements, including characters from "The Wizard of Oz" (a nod to Seattle's nickname of "Emerald City").

Between the lines: Like writers before me, I've often wondered what was going on with the rollerblader lying prone on his back in the middle of the mural.

  • Baum said that's a place where part of the design is missing — originally, a dog was chasing a cat while dragging the rollerblader, who was desperately trying to hold the dog's leash.
  • Other details lost to the years that Baum is restoring include some hippos with "cute goofy smiles," and outlines of buildings and characters.

What's next: Baum said she hopes to finish working on the mural by the end of summer.

  • In the meantime, you might find her perched on a ladder along North 38th Street, restoring a piece of neighborhood history.
A bright mural with black outlining on a wall alongside a roadway.
The mural covers about 550 feet along North 38th Street. Photo: Melissa Santos/Axios
A woman in an orange-red shirt and paint stained pants stands next to two purple hippos in a mural.
Norma Baum said working on the mural is a way of giving back to the neighborhood. Photo: Melissa Santos/Axios
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