Painted Walls

The magic of murals


What: Volunteer Alley Mural Project

Where: 2009 Main St., Ferndale


WHEN: July 13-14
MORE: Shifts are available for both beginning and intermediate artists


Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Anybody who’s ever strolled through Freak Alley in downtown Boise, Idaho knows the magic that can be found when humdrum walls are magically transformed into works of art. Since 2002, more than 200 artists have contributed to the blocks-long, ever-changing cacophony of creativity, making it one of the largest outdoor galleries in the Northwest.

After a visit last summer that ended with a quick-but-memorable tour through Freak Alley, I started paying more attention to murals that could be found closer to home.

In downtown Bellingham and historic Fairhaven, painter Lanny Little has brought history to life via fascinating re-creations of times gone by. Gretchen Leggitt’s lyrical landscapes can be seen everywhere from the Sundial mural on the wall of Ciao Thyme, to the Culture Cafe alley behind the Herald Building, and the nearly 22,000-square-foot expanse of painted mountain ranges on the side of Encogen Northwest at the lower end of Cornwall Avenue—believed to be the largest mural in Washington state.

Additionally, works by street artist Shawn Cass can be viewed everywhere from the burned-out husk of Hohl’s Feed & Seed alley—known as #BirdAlley in approximately one million selfies—to the outer wall of McKay’s Taphouse, the alley behind Cap Hansen’s Tavern, and beyond. Take a look at a number of downtown alleys, in fact, and there will likely be something interesting to peruse.

Elsewhere in Whatcom County, locals and visitors can check out the Lynden Town Mural on the city’s Front Street and take a peek inside the post office at a historical mural depicting the founding of Lynden. Painted in 1942, the installation recently drew criticism from a local couple who—due to the inclusion of an unclothed Native American woman—deemed it pornographic and attempted to have it defaced.

Not quite as controversial is a recently completed mural by Brenda Goddard-Lawrence on Third Street in downtown Ferndale. The sweeping landscape includes a view of Mt. Baker and the surrounding hills, with a river running through it all. It was the first piece commissioned by the Ferndale Arts Commission’s Downtown Mural Project, and is lovely to behold.

A prior project helmed by the commission includes a rainbow-hued Community Mural Project that was painted last summers on the City Hall Annex building by a number of volunteers. And thanks to a Project Neighborly grant awarded by the Whatcom Community Foundation, this weekend will see another volunteer alley mural project come to life.

Both beginning painters and intermediate and advanced artists are still needed to help bring the installation to colorful life on the Main Street alley next to Etta’s Antiques and Collectibles, so if it’s always been your dream to paint on a public space, now’s your opportunity. The mural will be completed as swiftly as possible, so show up early in the shift so you don’t miss out. 

“Public art is essential to a vibrant downtown,” Councilmember Rebecca Xczar says. “They prevent graffiti and make our community a more attractive place to live, shop or dine. I’m grateful for the Whatcom Community Foundation’s support for this project and am ready to roll up my sleeves and make it happen.”

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