A Colorful Cast of Characters
Keeping Bill Mitchell’s visions alive
Wednesday, November 4, 2020
If visitors to Anacortes find that the fishermen, gold miners, musicians, shopkeepers, soldiers, newsmen, bankers, politicians and flappers of yesteryear depicted on murals and wood cutout figures throughout the city resemble each other, it’s because they were all created by Bill Mitchell—a man whose singular visions of his hometown have helped keep its rich history alive.
When Mitchell died in the spring of 2019 a month or so shy of his 70th birthday, he left behind more than 175 works of art mounted at approximately 140 locations throughout the Fidalgo Island municipality. (If that sounds like a insurmountable task, it makes more sense when you consider that he started working on the Anacortes Mural Project in 1984, when he was in his 30s.)
To bring his art into the public sphere, Mitchell—who was paralyzed in a car accident as a teenager, but didn’t let that stop him from being in constant motion—relied on help from a crew of friends who would assist with tasks such as moving plywood and then cutting and sanding the works into shape in advance of him taking a paintbrush to them in his studio.
Although the artist, cartoonist and historian is gone, he and his many talents have not been forgotten. A picture book that debuted in September, Bill Mitchell’s Colorful Cast of Characters: A Coloring Book for All Ages, was designed to create interest in his artwork and murals, while simultaneously raising money to help preserve Mitchell’s remaining works—which were donated to the City of Anacortes after he passed away, with the Anacortes Museum and the Anacortes Museum Foundation assuming long-term stewardship.
The contents of the coloring book produced by How it Works Creative Thought and Design include a colorful front cover of a fantastical mermaid and a back cover that includes details about the tome and the Anacortes Mural Project—as well as Mitchell’s favorite definition of an artist. Inside, interested parties will find 23 comic-style illustrations in black and white from throughout the artist’s storied life just waiting to be filled in (see an example above). The family-friendly pieces were chosen by Bill’s brother Mark and Chris Terrell of How It Works to show the broad range of topics Mitchell was interested in.
In a short video highlighting the project, Mark says that after his brother’s death he discovered scrapbooks full of cartoons that were hidden in suitcases where nobody could readily find them. They were full of “hidden treasures” that translated perfectly into a coloring book.
“He was a cartoonist long before he was a muralist,” Mark says, noting that proceeds from the sale of the $20 book will “help keep the murals up on the walls for generations to come.”
For those eager to get their hands on the book—whether it’s for themselves, for a Christmas gift, or simply to support the local project—they can be ordered online or picked up in Anacortes at How It Works, Little Tugs Children’s Boutique, the Red Snapper Gift Store, Secret Cove Restaurant, Watermark Book Company, Marine Supply and Hardware/Alley Cat Antiques, or Bob’s Chowder Bar. By making the purchase, you’ll not only be helping keep Bill Mitchell’s visions alive, you’ll also be making an art-focused investment in the future.
[Sat., Nov. 7]
HALLER MEET & GREET: Attend a meet-and-greet with Patty Haller from 12pm-3pm in Edison at Smith & Vallee Gallery, 5742 Gilkey Ave. The forest-focused paintings can be viewed through Nov. 29.
For more info: http://www.smithandvalleegallery.com
BEHNKE RECEPTION: An opening reception for Jean Behnke’s “Falling Into Alignment” takes place from 2pm-5pm in Mount Vernon at Perry and Carlson Gallery, 504 S. First St. The one-woman exhibit of new works can be viewed from 11am-5pm Thurs.-Sun. through November.
For more info: http://www.perryandcarlson.com
A GUILDED GALLERY: Stanwood-Camano Arts Guild’s “Celebrate Art Juried Show” will be on display from 11am-5pm Wed.-Sat. From Nov. 4-Jan. 9 in Stanwood at A Guilded Gallery, 8700 271st St. NW. The third in a series of ongoing juried shows features new works by regional artists in a variety of mediums. All works are for sale.
For more info: http://www.stanwoodcamanoart.com
ALLIED ARTS: A “Lummi Island Artis Show” will be on display from Nov. 6-28 at Allied Arts, 1418 Cornwall Ave. The exhibit features works by island artists Ria Harboe, Lynn Dee, and Kimberly Obbink. Gallery and thrift store hours are 11am-4pm Tues.-Fri. for the foreseeable future. Safety guidelines are in place.
For more info: http://www.alliedarts.org
ARTWOOD: Hours are currently 11am-5pm Wednesdays through Fridays, and 11am-6pm Saturdays at Artwood Gallery, 1000 Harris Ave. Please wear a mask when entering the gallery; gloves will be available for guests who need to handle the merchandise.
For more info: http://www.artwoodgallery.com
FOURTH CORNER FRAMES: Painter Lorna Libert’s “Close to Home” can be viewed through December at Fourth Corner Frames and Gallery, 311 W. Holly St. The exhibit features works such as “Windy Day on Bellingham Bay,” “The Path at Lake Padden,” and “Bad Hair Day.”
For more info: http://www.fourthcornerframes.com
GALLERY SYRE: Peruse “David Syre: Envisioning a Better Future” from 11am-4pm Tuesdays through Thursdays (and by appointment) through Nov. 7 at Gallery Syre, 465 W. Stuart Rd. The works Syre created during quarantine have a unique language and message for a better future. Mostly abstract and painted with powerful colors, these recent canvases inspire people to take a leap into the unknown, to think about new forms of living together—and a new world in which humans can coexist with nature again.
For more info: http://www.davidsyreart.com
GOOD EARTH: “Celebrate Handmade” will be featured from 11am-5pm Mondays through Saturdays (closed Tuesdays) and 12pm-4pm Sundays through December at Good Earth Pottery, 1000 Harris Ave. The exhibit features the work of resident artists.
For more info: http://www.goodearthpots.com
I.E. GALLERY: “Less: Presence in Absence” can be seen from 11am-5pm Fridays through Sundays through Nov. 29 in Edison at i.e. gallery, 5800 Cains Court. The group exhibit emphasizing the significance of absence as a shaper of knowing features works by Marc Wenet, Barbara Sternberger, J.W. Mahoney, Margy Lavelle, Galie Jean-Louis, Joe Goldberg, Ed Bereal, and Sharron Antholt.
For more info: http://www.ieedison.com
JANSEN ART CENTER: Mike Bathum’s “Emerging Nature 2,” “Through the Eyes of the Beholder” by Malissa Perry and Christen Mattix, a Whatcom Artist Studio Tour showcase, a Juried Exhibit, and the annual “Cup Show” can be viewed in person through Nov. 28 at the Jansen Art Center, 321 Front St.
For more info: http://www.jansenartcenter.org
MATZKE GALLERY: Peruse approximately 100 pieces of fine art in a variety of mediums as part of an annual “Art Auction” exhibit from 11am-5pm Fridays through Sundays through Nov. 15 on Camano Island at Matzke Fine Art Gallery and Sculpture Park, 2345 Blanche Way. “Bid or buy” the artworks by coming to the gallery or previewing the works online.
For more info: http://www.matzkefineart.com
MONA: “The Barn Show,” an exhibit commemorating the annual art shows held at the Reims’ farm on Fir Island starting in 1987, can be seen from 12pm-4pm Thursdays through Sundays through Jan. 10 in La Conner at the Museum of Northwest Art, 121 First St. Following CDC and state guidelines, only 20 people at a time will be admitted into the galleries.
For more info: http://www.monamuseum.org
QUILT & FIBER MUSEUM: “Journeys: High Fiber Diet,” featuring the works of Fiber Artists of Oregon and SW Washington, is on display from 11am-5pm Wednesdays through Sundays through Jan. 31 at La Conner’s Pacific Northwest Quilt & Fiber Arts Museum, 703 S. Second St. Reservations are required for entry.
For more info: http://www.qfamuseum.org
SCOTT MILO GALLERY: Watercolors by Eric Wiegardt will be featured from 11am-4pm Wednesdays through Saturdays From Nov. 6-Dec. 1 in Anacortes at Scott Milo Gallery, 420 Commercial Ave. Also showing are glass works by Lin McJunkin, silk encaustic illustrations by Leo Osborne, oil paintings by Lorna Libert and Dederick Ward, pastels by Kathleen Seacrest and Janice Wall, and metal works by Paul Thorne.
For more info: http://www.scottmilo.com
SPARK MUSEUM: Visit the Spark Museum of Electrical Invention from 11am-5pm Wednesday through Sunday at 1312 Bay St. Entry is $5-$12 (those 18 and older can add an extra $10 to experience the MegaZapper from inside the Cage of Doom).
For more info: http://www.sparkmuseum.org
WHATCOM ART MARKET: Works by Whatcom Art Guild members can be viewed from 11am-5pm Wednesdays through Sundays at Whatcom Art Market, 1103 11th St. Due to public safety concerns, masks are required for all customers, and hand sanitizer will be provided.
For more info: http://www.whatcomartmarket.org
WHATCOM MUSEUM: “Anatomy of a Collection: Recent Acquisitions and Promised Gifts” is open to the public (with limited capacity) from 12pm-4:30pm Wednesdays through Sundays at Whatcom Museum’s Lightcatcher Building, 250 Flora St. This exhibition reflects the longstanding relationships with artists, institutions and donors who have helped shape and expand the museum’s collection through gifts of art, and marks 10 years since the Lightcatcher’s construction. Whatcom Museum’s Old City Hall and Museum Store are also open.
For more info: http://www.whatcommuseum.org
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