Keep Spokane Kind of Gross: Develop Spokane without losing its culture, charm
SPOKANE, Wash. — A grassroots movement is encouraging people to embrace the more unsightly parts of Spokane.
You’ve probably heard of many city slogans, like Spokane’s “Near Nature Near Perfect,” or its newer brand “Creative by Nature,” or maybe even Portland’s “Keep Portland Weird,” but what are we supposed to make of this one: “Keep Spokane Kind of Gross”?
“We’ve had interesting reactions to it where some people get really defensive and say, ‘it’s not gross!'” said Taylor Weech, one of the co-creators.
But the creators of this slogan love Spokane just as much as you do.
“It’s about hanging on to the things that make us who we are,” said co-creator Erika Prins Simonds.
Weech and Prins Simonds came up with the slogan one day while recording a podcast, and reminiscing about Riverfront Park’s renovation.
“As much as it is exciting and change is good, but there’s some sadness to losing the pieces of your childhood that are physical places,” Erika explained.
In that conversation, the idea of “Keep Spokane Kind of Gross” was born.
Taylor grew up here. She’s happy to see the improving economy, but wonders if new development could make the city of her childhood unrecognizable.
“It’s a working class town,” Taylor said. “it’s got grit, it’s got scrappiness, and that’s something I’ve always really enjoyed about it.”
Erika is a transplant, and stayed here after graduating from Whitworth. She describes her hometown in California as “cookie cutter.”
“Some of the stuff that people here consider an eyesore or gross, is what I like about living in a place like this, that it has some history to it and it has some character to it, and everything isn’t corporate,” Erika explained.
Erika and Taylor aren’t against growth and change, but they want people to think about the effects of gentrification in Spokane.
“There’s differences in how other cities in the northwest have grown,” Erika said. “Seattle is an example of a city that hasn’t paid a lot of attention to preserving the core of its culture, and Portland is an example of a place that recognized really early on it had a lot to lose if they let go of the grungier, scrappier roots they have.”
This idea seems to resonate with many Spokanites, and what started as an inside joke, has grown into a movement, complete with its own hashtag.
“People just really caught onto it,” Taylor said. “I really can’t explain how it happened.”
Now, the stickers and t-shirts are being sold in a shop whose owner admits is also “kind of gross.”
“I like to carry the sorts of books that other book stores are afraid to carry,” said Giant Nerd Books owner Nathan Huston.
Huston grew up in Spokane in the 1970s and 1980s, and says the city has always had a bit of an identity crisis.
“Seattle has always been a medium-sized city that wants to be this giant metropolis,” he said. “Spokane has always been a medium-sized city that wants to be a small town.”
He’s optimistic about the developments, but also skeptical of how it will affect the Average Joe.
“There’s only so much money to go around,” he said, “and an eye toward the longer term should be a concern of everybody’s.”
Maybe “Keep Spokane Kind of Gross” means something a little different to everyone because Spokane’s identity is hard to pin down.
But as a transplant to Spokane myself, I believe this much: Spokane’s charm grows the longer you’re around to peel back the layers of what could be considered “gross” and discover the hidden gems in this place we call home.
“Keeping our growth locally grassroots, have local people know what local solutions need to be to problems, and to grow with our values intact,” Taylor said.
If you want to pick up your own “Keep Spokane Kind of Gross” sticker, you can do it at Giant Nerd Books on Monroe Avenue.
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