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.
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.