Faces in the Crowd

Shawn Cass: Muralist

CDN's weekly community profile
January 27, 2023 at 5:00 a.m.
Shawn Cass, aka "Ruckas," has helped define Bellingham's look with the murals he has created around the city. Some of Cass' more recent work can be seen at Bellingham Axe, where he bartends.
Shawn Cass, aka "Ruckas," has helped define Bellingham's look with the murals he has created around the city. Some of Cass' more recent work can be seen at Bellingham Axe, where he bartends. (Hailey Hoffman/Cascadia Daily News)

Staff Reporter

Shawn Cass

Age: 42

City: Bellingham

Lived here for: 24 years

Originally from: Fayetteville, Arkansas

Notable: Muralist (McKay's Taphouse, Sehome Arboretum, Alamo Apartments, Bird Alley), DJ, Bellingham Axe bartender, phone-free

When did you get into art? 

Me and some friends would spend a lot of time hanging out in the woods and just painting on this wall over and over and over again, until we actually started getting good. And then we would start putting our stuff around town, and I did some really good illegal murals when I was in high school.

When I moved out here, I was trying to make a name for myself and I was tagging “Ruckas” on walls and stuff, but I'd only do it in places that were already kind of ugly — you know, a lot of dumpsters and stuff everywhere.

I was 19, and I got arrested for the first time. That's when I was like, “I can't afford to keep getting arrested.” So I started playing around on canvases. I met this lady that liked my art, and she owned a thrift store. She traded me credit at her thrift store for a painting I did. I started realizing that I could actually make money instead of getting arrested, so that's when I started focusing on doing it more legally.

Do you have a favorite among all of the artworks you've done? 

This is definitely one of my very favorites (pointing to the walls at Bellingham Axe). You don't get the opportunity every day to just go nuts on all these walls.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I love DJing. I started out with vinyl before it all went digital. I still have my turntables, and I still have a humongous collection of vinyls. I'm not that good of an emcee, but I still dabble in it sometimes.

What is your day job? 

I bartend here three days a week. I do a lot of little side hustling with my art. I like to do random labor jobs. I've done a lot of house painting. People like to have somebody that still has that eye for aesthetics and cares about the look, so I've gotten a chance to get to learn a lot of those trades.

Why don't you own a smartphone? 

I feel like I would get really addicted to it. So I just decided my lifestyle was going to be an experiment because I don't like the idea of people having to depend on these things in order to survive and get by in this society. I got a laptop and social media. So I can do everything on Messenger from my laptop and I don't have to pay anyone anything.

“Faces in the Crowd” is published weekly in print on Wednesdays and online Fridays. Have a suggestion for a “Faces in the Crowd” subject? Email us at newstips@cascadiadaily.com.

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