GRANDVIEW — Chase Reiff was born and raised in Sunnyside, but spent several of his teenage years in Yakima.
Here, he discovered and developed his passion for street art and started learning various painting techniques. That passion continued when he moved back to Sunnyside.
Nearly a decade later, Reiff, 25, lives in Sunnyside and is still doing art full time. His work includes graphic design and painting murals at various buildings around town.
As he saw the number of COVID-19 cases rising in Yakima County, Reiff knew he could put his passion for street art to good use. He started sketching for a series of what he called “propaganda murals” about COVID-19.
While most people have negative associations with propaganda, Reiff sees it differently.
“Propaganda is beneficial to promote and influence positive ideas to the public,” he said. “I definitely use that world openly.”
Reiff also saw an opportunity to promote businesses, including those that were negatively impacted by the virus. Reiff went out and got several businesses to sponsor his murals. That sponsorship included providing space and materials. In return, he made space to mention the businesses.
Reiff donated his time.
“It was literally (about) communication and promotion of each other,” he said.
Reiff painted five murals over several weeks:
- The first mural has a profile of a woman wearing a mask with the phrase “Stay home” in large white letters. At the bottom of the mural, he painted a line of white dots to show the length of time between contracting COVID-19 and showing symptoms. Each dot equals one day.
- The second mural promotes the importance of 6 feet of social distance by showing people and rolls of toilet paper, a play on the massive hoarding of the item in the early days of the pandemic.
- The third mural depicts Rosie the Riveter — the star of a World War II campaign to recruit female workers — wearing a mask and saying her famous phrase, “We Can Do It” along with a new directive: “Help Fight Covid-19.”
- The fourth mural features another American cultural icon, Uncle Sam, with the question, “Are you doing all you can?” The mural was Reiff’s way of thanking those who served, including those who are part of the Veterans of Foreign Affairs group in Sunnyside.
- The final mural includes a health care worker in scrubs wearing a mask, flying over the city with the phrase “First responders, thank you.”
The end goal with every mural has been the same: “How am I able to show people what needs to be said, what needs to be seen?” Reiff said.
To achieve this goal, Reiff used large graphic elements as well as bright colors. With Sunnyside having a supermajority of Latino residents, he wanted to make sure the message was clear even if they didn’t necessarily understand the words.
“It can be interpreted in any language,” he said.
When he looks at his murals as a whole, he realizes he’s not only providing public health messages to the community but also chronicling a critical time in history.
“If you look at them as a whole, it’s actually a story being told,” he said. “It has to do with where I’m at. We’re all living. We’re all in it together.”