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Market Theater Gum Wall: The Sticky Story of a Wall Decorated in Chewing Gum

BY Tanveer Khan September 5, 2020
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Gum wall, Seattle.

Gum wall, Seattle. (Diego Delso, delso.photo, License CC-BY-SA)

The Pike Place Market in Downtown Seattle, also known as the birthplace of Starbucks, is one of the oldest farmers’ markets in the USA. But today, this is not what brings more curious visitors to this already famous place in Seattle anymore. The Market Theatre Gum Wall has taken over the limelight, ever since impatient patrons started ‘decorating’ the walls with chewing gum thirty years ago. A tourist attraction, with a special marking for it in fold-out maps. This gum wall does not have a long story, unlike its actual length in real life.

Location of the Gum Wall and its origins

In Post Alley, Seattle between the Pike and Union streets, an inconspicuously narrow lane leads into the Market Theater – home to Unexpected Productions. A quirky, fruity fragrance hangs in the air; but even before one could recall the fragrance while looking for the source, a multi-coloured artwork hidden in plain sight, springs before the onlookers, leaving them much in awe and aversion.

Gum Wall closeup.

Gum Wall closeup. (Ben Curry/Unsplash)

The story of the Gum Wall dates back to 1993 when patrons would wait in line to get their tickets for the improv show and stick their gum blobs to the wall for holding on to their coins. Slowly, coins started disappearing overnight, but the practice of sticking chewed gums stayed on, thus leaving behind a remarkably striking legacy on the wall, coming right out of peoples’ mouths. The Gum Wall has only grown piece by piece ever since the first huge lot of chewing gums left the management and preservation department in a sticky situation. In 1999, it was decided to let the Gum Wall stay for more people to come and ‘stick’ their mark in stone forever.

Dimensions of the Gum Wall and attractions

Oddly satisfying, the colourful Gum Wall is now a tourist attraction, with local and international visitors flocking in the millions to see it in all its bright colours. The peculiar brick wall has become a fascinating piece of artwork, which stretches as wide as 55-feet on both sides of the passageway and is almost 8-feet-high, with each brick holding approximately 150 units of bubblegum on it. Apart from the regular gums, jabbed with finger marks in the centre to press it on, the wall also has self-proclaimed artists putting up their art on display. Right from spelling out names to making elaborate but small portraits, along with the heart-shaped love confessions, everything on the wall is left to the imagination.

The gum wall in post alley.

The gum wall in post alley. (Calvin Hodgson/Flickr)

Gum wall window.

Gum wall window. (Ruth Hartnup/Flickr)

Cleaning procedures at the Gum Wall

Fearing that the sugar in the gum would erode the brick wall, authorities undertook a steam cleaning operation in November 2015 to wipe out the last bit of gum.

Cleaning the Gum Wall

Cleaning crews taking down the famous gum wall. (Alberto Cruz/Flickr)

It took them 130 hours to remove a little more than 1000 kg of gum, but their efforts went in vain. Bubblegum started appearing again, along with visitors, who missed no opportunity to capture the collective artwork in their cameras.

Enjoyed this article? Also, check out “Sedlec Ossuary: The Famous Bone Church of Kutná Hora in the Czech Republic“.


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