Participants in the 46th running of Bloomsday likely saw two critters as they made their way up the notorious Doomsday Hill: one feathered and one fur-covered.
There was the familiar sight of The Vulture, a staple of the race since 1987, and then there was Doomsday, a 14-by-70-foot orange tabby cat.
“Doomsday the Cat” is the latest mural from renowned local artists Cain and Todd Benson, the brother duo behind several of Spokane’s most iconic public art, including “Eyes on Maple” on walls just north of the Maple Street Bridge and “An Ode to Music” at Hoffman Music Store. Their work is on display across the Inland Northwest, including at the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena and Columbia Basin College in Tri-Cities.
The new guardian of Doomsday Hill is the Bensons’ first public art piece since the pandemic began, as well as their first ever mural at a private residence.
Homeowner Graham Stone said he has planned to fill the wall with public art since he bought the residence in 2018. The wall is the exterior of a backyard pool that oversees the Spokane River and surrounding valley.
Stone and his family have participated in Bloomsday several times, which is where he and his wife first noticed the property up on the hill. He said he was scrolling through Zillow one day when he noticed it was for sale and he jumped at the opportunity.
Stone said the wall has been tagged by graffiti artists a couple of times, so when the weather began to warm up earlier this year, he reached out to the Bensons for a more permanent adornment. He was a fan of their work visible around the city and gave them complete creative freedom for the project commissioned for $3,500.
“I think artists do the best work when they do what they love,” Stone said.
In the years to come, Stone said he hopes the wall will motivate other homeowners to commission local artists to add public art to their properties.
The Bensons finished the mural with a couple coats of clear coat just a few days ago. The process took around two weeks to complete due to a few rain-outs, Cain Benson said.
“Taggers just want more art out there, and we do, too,” Cain Benson said. “We noticed if we put a big piece of art up, most will respect it and stay away.”
Since the mural is located along the Bloomsday route, Benson said they originally wanted to incorporate related iconography like Spokane’s running man statues. However, they decided to change course after they got to the site and realized the initial design was busy and hard to discern.
The idea for the muted orange and burgundy cat came from Todd Benson’s wife, who saw a photo of a resting cat and got inspired. “Doomsday” also closely resembles Cain Benson’s own tabby cat, Garfield. He said they used a grid to get the design on the wall, rather than using a projector like they did for their mural on Hoffman Music.
“Everyone who saw the cat just walked away with a smile and that’s what you want in a mural,” Cain Benson said. “You want beauty.”