Why Seattle’s Trees Are Turning Electric Blue

Over the past few years, trees in Vancouver, BC, and Auckland, New Zealand, have turned blue. Now the same thing is happening to trees in Seattle. It isn’t some strange virus or fungus; it’s part of an art project intended to make people more aware of the trees that surround them.

The idea for the Blue Trees project came to Australian artist Konstantin Dimopoulos in 2003 after a visit to Friends of the Earth in Australia. “One of the people had just come back from Southeast Asia, and he showed me images of these forests being cut down. He said it would be great if we could somehow get this incredible devastation on the front pages,” explains Dimopoulos.

The Blue Trees project aims to get trees, which all too often fade into the background of cities, noticed by everyone. In each city where the project has been installed, Dimopoulous turns clusters of trees an electric blue with a kind of paint that washes away in the rain. The artist says that the paint is not hazardous.

The latest project, which will see 56 trees painted in Seattle’s Westlake Park and Burke-Gilman Trail, is currently being installed (you can see the in-progress trees in the slide show above). The reaction thus far has been positive, says Dimopoulous. “Mostly people look at this and they love the blue. It’s actually quite intense and beautiful. We’re doing this to get people to say, ‘Wait, what’s happening?'”

After Seattle, Dimopoulous is bringing the project to Florida, Boston, and London. “All I’m doing is raising a flag,” he says. “I am for sustainable forestry, but there is sustainable and managed forestry and then there’s ecocide.”