Morgan Junction mural to be restored soon: ‘Spark to help save the others’

(WSB photos by Patrick Sand)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

After years of planning and discussion, the next step toward restoring West Seattle’s murals will soon go from plans and hopes to reality.

We first reported in October 2015 that Dan Austin, owner of Peel and Press in Morgan Junction, was leading a project to save the mural on the west side of the California/Fauntleroy building that holds his business and four others.

It’s been a long road but that road reached one big milestone back in January, when the Morgan Community Association committed money to the restoration project. Then, another milestone this week, when the muralist who will restore it got his first look at it.

(L-R, Lora Swift, Deb Barker, Phil Tavel, Dan Austin, Bob Henry, Clay Eals)

He is Bob Henry from Gig Harbor, and we were there as he visited the mural Tuesday with Austin, MoCA’s president and vice president Deb Barker and Phil Tavel, and the Southwest Seattle Historical Society‘s executive director Jeff McCord and past ED Clay Eals, plus Lora Swift of the West Seattle Junction Association, which is working toward restoration of the Junction murals too.

Though a long-gone group called the Junction Development Committee led the mural effort almost three decades ago, the murals now basically belong to the buildings where they were painted, and that has already led to some changes and losses – we reported two years ago on the removal of one mural, “Midnight Call,” because of unfixable rot. Another mural was re-created on a wall at The Whittaker (WSB sponsor) after the teardown of the building where it was painted. Other Junction murals have been tagged – like this one, “First Duwamish Bridge,” which got an unofficial partial restoration thanks to a mystery artist, but needs a lot more help. One Junction mural has already been restored – the one on the Post Office, more than a decade ago – but just one.

Back to the Morgan mural:

As Austin put it on Tuesday, they hope to “use this one as a spark to help save the others.” The owners of the building have given their blessing and do not expect to redevelop it for a long time; they also are contributing to the restoration effort. The reason this one mural was painted outside The Junction was that Ken Olsen, owner at the time of Olsen’s Drug Store in the building, was heavily involved in the community and “wanted something here.” It was painted in 1990 by Nova Scotia muralist Bruce Rickett:

Restoration organizers found him and he said that he couldn’t help due to health challenges, but also gave his blessing to the idea of restoration.

The wall will require washing before painting, and that is expected to take off some of the paint; photos will help Henry restore those spots, and the original colors. But if you happen to have any photos of the mural, especially from its early days, that could help (more on that at story’s end).

Henry, by the way, says he has a long history as a wall painter, including commercial work. You can see his work at muralmastersnw.com. This mural was painted directly onto the brick/mortar wall, and that presents some challenges, but it will be coated before and after restoration (which will also protect it from vandalism).

Henry estimates the work will take about two weeks; it’s likely to happen this summer. But the money raised so far is not completely covering the cost yet, so Austin expects to launch a fundraising campaign soon.

It will be teamwork with WSJA, which will serve as the nonprofit fiscal agent for the fundraising. And, as WSJA’s Swift said during a conversation at Peel and Press before the mural inspection on Tuesday, there’s hope that this all may result in a “plug and play” outline for other projects, “giving people the tools to be successful.” And the group also is well aware that murals aren’t just a thing of the past – West Seattle has had a recent renaissance in mural-painting, from Jesse Link‘s work, to Graves “Desmond” Hansen‘s signal-box murals (the first of which is right across the Fauntleroy/California intersection from the soon-to-be-restored mural):

The organizers hope this all will grow into a community-embraced initiative.

WHAT YOU CAN DO NOW: Though crowdfunding won’t start for a few weeks, Austin says, “We can accept personal pledges for the project and people could contact me at Dan@peelandpressws.com.”

Also – got photos of this mural or any of West Seattle’s others? “We would also love to enlist the help of any one who may have old photos of the murals or are willing to go out and take good quality photos of the murals so we can document their condition. The website MuralsofWestSeattle.org will be live within a few days and we would love to start populating it with more photos.” Same email address.

16 Replies to "Morgan Junction mural to be restored soon: 'Spark to help save the others'"

  • Gatewood April 26, 2018 (8:03 pm)

    Excited to see this project step up and fight to keep some of the connections to the past!  Very cool!

  • Kim April 26, 2018 (9:43 pm)

    Stories like this make me feel very proud to live here.

  • 98126res April 27, 2018 (7:48 am)

    YAY!!!

  • Brian April 27, 2018 (8:28 am)

     My hot take on this is that I’m super into preserving private/public space for artistic endeavors but I do not care if the original murals get maintained or restored. They’re not particularly engaging or artistically challenging and the community would be better served providing those vertical surfaces to young, local artists to express themselves. The murals don’t even need to be a permanent installation. You could have new artists rotate through and use the same space as a rotating installation.

    • Gatewood April 27, 2018 (1:42 pm)

      I understand where you are coming from but it is not that these are the only verticle spaces in WS.  I could list 4-5 spots off the top of my head and there will be a bunch of new tall buildings going up.  Why not save these and expand on the project.  Jesse Link has done fantastic work and Desmond Hansen is also doing his own amazing project.  Fixing these are not shutting out young artists. Infact, I think this very conversation does nothing but benefit them and others looking for space to express themselves.  Burien has a really cool Art Ally project that sounds a lot like you are reffering to.  I would be all for that being something that WS could add in addition to this work!

    • CAM April 28, 2018 (1:43 pm)

      I was shocked to read that this was in reference to a mural that was originally painted in 1990. I assumed that it was relatively outdated in it’s style because it was  a lot older than that. Given it’s young age it really doesn’t seem all that historic or deserving of a mass preservation effort. That’s not to say that artwork isn’t great. Public art should be encouraged. But maybe they could take that money and paint something on that wall that is more reflective of the community today. Just because something is older doesn’t automatically make it worth preserving. 

      • WSB April 28, 2018 (2:26 pm)

        It depicts a scene at that corner from the 1930s.

    • Phillip April 30, 2018 (1:40 pm)

      The historical preservation is something important to many people in the neighborhood. It was originally a beautiful mural of what that intersection looked like in 1937 and it would be a shame to lose it. The neighborhood residents at the Morgan Community Association meeting in January overwhelmingly approved the expenditure of funds for the mural. And, everyone should be aware that there is a plan to look at supporting more, new neighborhood art, while ALSO protecting and restoring the past art that we still have. It’s not mutually exclusive. 

  • Ellen April 27, 2018 (8:50 am)

    Glad to see this initiative is more than taking shape. Hope to be involved somehow–even as a “small” donor!  This is great and I have loved the murals since they first were painted. Hopefully all can be restored soon.

  • Yes April 27, 2018 (2:48 pm)

    Maybe Howard Schultz should have donated the funds instead of wasting money from fund to fight developers further screw up our neighborhood. Great for mural preservation but funds coming from wrong source.

    • The Truth April 27, 2018 (6:22 pm)

      That fund is not for fighting developers:

      SETTLEMENT $ FROM ‘NO PARKING’ BUILDING FIGHT: A grant program is being set up to administer the $25,000 donation received in a settlement related to the 6917 California “30 units, no parking” apartment building, which is under construction. MoCA will vote on applications and manage them much as the city manages its neighborhood-grant programs. The money is being held by the Admiral Neighborhood Association as fiscal agent for MoCA, which is not an incorporated nonprofit.

  • Yes April 28, 2018 (10:23 pm)

    The Truth most of what you state above is true, but when we got that money from the developers from the 6917 California Ave  it basically a payoff. At the time MoCa had no money and now we had a war chest. It was originally going to be used to help fight development that we did not think was in our best interest, then part of maybe being used for neighborhood improvements was added. So do you think that spending 20 percent of the money on a mural that is on the back side of a building is good use of the money is a good idea. If the businesses that are in the building or the landlord want to spruce it up, then they should, with their money.   I know how this came about because I was the one that went around to almost 150 neighbors to bring attention to the 30 units with no parking, that was going to be built. By the way the next development that will be on Willow and California was to be 7 units with 5 parking spots, has  now been okayed for 7 units with 1 parking spot. Also the guy that applied for 30 unit bldg. no parking is the same guy on the 7 unit with one spot, Dave Biddle. At least when you cannot find a parking spot on your street you will be happy to drive up to the backside of Starbucks and look at the mural that we paid for. By the way, The Truth where were you when I was going door to door letting people know was going to happen to our neighborhood or when I went to the same doors asking for donations to fight the developers. I got money from 2 people and I put up the first 500 dollars.  Enjoy!

    • WSB April 28, 2018 (10:34 pm)

      Dave Biddle is the person who applies to the city on behalf of Blueprint, so that’s why you see his name on so many applications. Mark Knoll, Blueprint co-founder/CEO, was the 6917 California developer (you must have been at this meeting with him):… and he sold the building a few years later.)

      We published the settlement document after finding it in the city files:
      http://westseattleblog.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/agreement.pdf
      It stipulated only that the $25,000 would go to a nonprofit entity of the Morgan Community Association’s choosing. Besides the $5,000 sought for the mural project, as we reported in January, $5,000 was also to be donated to the appeal of the HALA MHA Environmental Impact Statement, which some might say is closer to “fighting developers.”

    • The Truth April 29, 2018 (9:21 am)

      Thanks for fighting against development that impacts our Junction, that is appreciated.  That said,  Moca has a fund for neighborhood grants, anyone can apply for those grants and they are voted on by the attendants of the quarterly meeting.  I believe the vote for this was 30 or 31-0 with one person abstaining.  I get you don’t like the use but it seems like overwhelming support from others.  From what I have seen the project is like 11k so I would assume more than half of the money is coming from landlord, businesses and private donors.  Also, this isn’t just a mural on this building for this building.  It is part of a collection of 13 in West Seattle and not just the responsibility of the building owner or the businesses but also the community.  I don’t think we will come to a fully understanding here but you are fighting for responsible development to keep a certain soul and feeling to the neighborhood.  I think these folks are volunteering their time and effort to do the same thing via multiple avenues.  

  • Yes April 28, 2018 (10:57 pm)

    Thanks at least 5grand is being used for good. Still think the other 5grand is more the business or  landlords responsibility. At least when the mural needs to be redone in 20 years, they will have to get the money from somebody else, because MoCa will not have the money. Enjoy!

  • Yes April 28, 2018 (11:48 pm)

    And WSB ,  yes that same Dave Biddle is with Blueprint, same guys both developments on two consecutive corners with no parking or reduced parking after getting permits. Good for the neighborhood, NOT!

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