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Bremerton is home to one of 12 official graffiti walls in Washington

The Manette Graffiti Wall in Bremerton, Washington.
Freddy Monares
The Manette Graffiti Wall in Bremerton, Washington.

There's a large concrete wall full of graffiti that breaks up the lush greenery on Wheaton Way in Bremerton's Manette neighborhood.

On a recent sunny afternoon, a mural of Dragon Ball Z characters stood about 10 feet tall and 20 feet wide. Jonathan Perry made the illustration as a tribute to anime creator Akira Toriyama, who died in March. It’s surrounded by other artists’ work: Drawings of a character from the movie Mars Attacks and tags in stylized block letters.

The site is known as the Manette Graffiti Wall, and it's always changing. Perry — known in the artist community as 'Fro' — said it's a place to practice, meet other artists and do commissions — like memorials for pets.

“Nocto my painting partner has done, I think, two or three of them here where he’ll paint a dog’s portrait or something," Perry said during an interview at the site. "And the family will come and have snacks while he paints.”

The site was once home to Bremerton’s longest-running bar, the Maple Leaf Tavern. It was demolished in 2014 and began deteriorating.

Then Marie Weichman stepped in. She’s an art professor at Olympic College and worked with the property owner at the time to “liven up the space.” In 2016, she put up one of her drawings on the wall along with an invitation for people to draw whatever they wanted there.

“And within four days, artists within the community – namely Fro and some of his buddies – started showing up and painting,” Weichman said.

She said the artists cleaned up needles and broken glass on the ground. This is one of only about a dozen sites in the state where graffiti art is sanctioned.

"When that became a sanctioned place, a place that was okay, then you realize how many of these young painters aren't looking to cause trouble ... They're not looking to get arrested. They're looking to make art," Weichman said.

Back at the wall, Perry said he passes by often to see if his paintings are still intact, or what's been painted over them.

"I introduce myself to other people when they’re painting here, just to try to build that community and make some connections,” Perry said.

During the interview with Perry, a man showed up to paint with a long ladder and hedge trimmers to cut away intruding branches. He spray painted a black, white, green and red flag with the words “Free Palestine” on it.

Perry said people sometimes get political — and that’s ok. The wall is kind of like a community bulletin board.

Freddy Monares has covered politics, housing inequalities and Native American communities for a newspaper and a public radio station in Montana. He grew up in East Los Angeles, California, and moved to Missoula, Montana, in 2015 with the goal of growing in his career.