“Error 404 – Sun not found”: Since Peregrine Church’s “Rainworks” street art only shows up when it rains, Seattle has started to embrace its frequent bad weather spells.

Rain is annoying. Rubber booted kids and avid gardeners aside, most people get grumpy the moment it starts to pour outside. Which is not exactly the most constructive solution. Yet since there is no way to sway the weather, we might be better off changing the way we deal with it. At least according to US artist Peregrine Church.

Based on a water-repellent spray, his “Rainworks” now grace Seattle’s sidewalks and tarmac with street art that only becomes visible in the rain. “It’s gonna rain no matter what, so why not do something cool with it?”seems to be Church’s stance whose “Rainworks are designed to make people’s rainy days a little bit better.”

Art from a (water-repellant) spray can

The 22-year-old first stumbled across the idea in an online tutorial featuring a super hydrophobic, i. e. extremely water repellant, spray that causes liquids to roll off any surface, including fabric or skin. The substance causing this so-called lotus effect is entirely harmless and biodegradable.

Rainworks Seattle smart magazine

Eager to put his idea to the test, Church purchased spray cans and cut stencils of his slogans and graphics. Together with two friends, he ventured out guerrilla-style to transform the tarmac in front of a bus stop into his very first “Rainwork” – and made it a nocturnal adventure to ensure that no one would witness the work’s creation and thus pre-empt the precipitation-based punchline.

The piece’s title, “Stay Dry out There,“ is also the work itself, framed by a liberal smattering of raindrops. Yet Peregrine had to be patient to enjoy the fruits of his labor – all the way until the next rainfall.

The physical-chemical principle behind it all is relatively simple: The water repellant spray protects the tarmac from rain, keeping it dry and lighter in color, while the surrounding tarmac soaks up the moisture and looks a few shades darker. The resulting contrast reveals the street art underneath.

Rainworks Seattle smart magazine
Rainworks Seattle smart magazine
Rainworks Seattle smart magazine
Rainworks Seattle smart magazine

More than 30 “Rainworks“ grace Seattle

By now, the collection has grown to encompass 30 images, a hopscotch court, slogans like “There’s no bad weather, just poor clothing choices,” and sustainability messages like “How much water can you safe?”. A map on the Rainworks website lists every single art spot and turns rainy Seattle into a temporary public museum of sorts.

“Due to its geographical situation, Seattle is associated with rain,“ states Church, “so it’s sort of the ideal Seattle art.“ At the same time, it’s only a transient installation: The spray-on substance disintegrates after half a year and obliterates the underlying artwork.

Yet with Church constantly creating new pieces, and help from copycats willing to spread the word, the city boasts an ever-growing wealth of fun disruptions for rainy days. “With everybody’s help, we can spread the positivity across the globe!“, he adds.

Soon, Church will publish a tutorial video that explains the precise methodology behind it all. This how-to is also a sign of hope: If a formula exists that turns even rain into something uplifting – then plenty of other things also seem possible.

Rainworks Seattle smart magazine
Rainworks are made by Peregrine Church (right), who is often helped by co-conspirators Xack Fischer (left).


All the images, incl. the header image: Rainworks