'It brings a smile on faces, and a shine on shoes'

TACOMA, Wash. -- Gabriel Brown is a man on a mission.

Dressed like the city's old City Hall, Brown shines shoes on the street. He draws smiles even though he has faced tough times.

"I've been laid off four times in the last few years, most of those directly due to the economy," he said. "Moved to Tacoma, (and) I have been just looking for work non-stop."

In between four part-time jobs, Brown dons his replica of the beloved now-unoccupied landmark, and sets off to shine shoes.

"(The building) sits down there, empty, so I kind of just wanted to give it a job," said Brown.

The shoe-shine artist dislikes waste. Recycled campaign signs for Dino Rossi piece together his replica. His conversations with shoe-shine customers revolve around repair.

Brown got his inspiration from the Hope in Hard Times exhibit at the Washington State History Museum. The exhibit highlights Washingtonians who suffered through the Great Depression, includes messages that reflect what many are experiencing today.

"I feel like it's more than an economic slump; it's a big reality check for us," said Brown.

Brown doesn't want his talents, the old City Hall or footwear going to waste, but the shoe-shining City Hall isn't going to waste too much time worrying about that.

"It brings a smile on faces, and a shine on shoes. If nothing else, I do hope it's just about that," said Brown.

You can find the performing artist shining shoes weekday mornings by the museum until its Great Depression exhibit ends.
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