July 15, 2002
Experience the Bothell Mural Project
by Bronwyn Wilson
Senior Staff Reporter
Two bearded men lean on their rifles near the corner of Festival and Main. The men, in overalls and wide-brimmed hats, shoot deadpan stares into passing traffic. A woman in a long skirt pushes a baby buggy while another lady sports a fine-feathered hat and a fancy billowing dress. These characters seem like they're straight out of the past. And, actually, they are. They're Bothell's early pioneers, resurrected in a brownish-orange pigment to resemble an old tintype and painted on a 73-foot mural spanning one side of Seattle Home Appliance. The mural has delighted downtown visitors since February.
On July 4th, it was officially dedicated in a celebration attended by the community, city officials and legislators. Senator Rosemary McAuliffe, chair for the Capital Arts Committee, officiated the event, which recognized the many volunteers who devoted their time, talent and resources to the project.
Lead artist Pat Benson and fellow artist Pat Pierce put in a combined time of four hundred and five hours to see the work to completion. Business owners, students and seniors also gave time to the project. In addition, Paul Richards Clothing loaned their newly remodeled basement to build it. Bill Grift offered his appliance business to display it. And the City of Bothell and former Police Chief Mark Ericks donated time to hang it. From start to finish, it took three months, twenty-two volunteers, six gallons of paint, and countless hours of thorough research.
McAuliffe says the community has warmly embraced the new mural. "The people I've talked to-business owners and the community-have been so very proud of it. It warms the city up with the history it shows."
The mural depicts Bothell's history in a progression of scenes that begin with pioneers traveling to the area by riverboat.
As your eyes scan left to right, you move from travelers to loggers to settlers and from wooden structures to brick buildings.
The history, though, will be lost to anyone content to snatch a glance while driving by it. In order to take it all in, the Bothell Mural requires parking the car and strolling right to it. Only then, as you study the sweeping panorama of Bothell's early days, can you begin to listen to the sounds of yesteryear in your mind ... metal clanking at Webster's Blacksmith ... steam wheezing from a train en route to the Bothell Train Depot ... horse hooves clip clopping along Main Street.
But there's more to the mural experience than mental and visual imagery. Sue Kienast, president of the Bothell Historical Museum, and mural artist Pierce saw to that. They collaborated to create a set of four different trivia sheets, now available and located inside a plastic holder next to Bothell Furniture. The trivia sheets tell a little about the mural and ask questions to spark fun and curiosity about Bothell and its history. One question asks, "Can you find the man in the ape suit? Why is he there?" Other questions include: "Can you find the outhouse?" "What business now operates in the Olympia Bar?"
The back of each sheet reveals the answers. It would spoil the joy of discovering the mural for yourself if they were disclosed now. But one hint won't hurt. Look for the man in the ape suit at the parade scene.
McAuliffe explains the trivia sheets' purpose; "This is kind of a history lesson—for the Bothell community, the children, and visitors. It's a chance for people to identify the history contained in the mural."
Kienast adds, "It's educational but fun at the same time. We're hoping kids will come down...not only to look at the mural and learn a little history, but also to have fun finding things. It's like 'Where's Waldo?' although it's not 'Waldo'." Even so, locating the 14 wild animals hiding in the mural scenery will prove an entertaining hunt.
Funding for the mural came from a Tourism Economic Grant secured by the Greater Bothell Association. The new mural replaces the original one painted on the side of the Allen Building to mark the City's centennial back in 1989. Unfortunately, the Allen Building, which stood where the police station sits today, didn't hold up. It was torn down and the mural went with it. Later as a result of the UW, Bothell and Cascadia colleges opening, a Capital Projects Sub-committee formed and discussed ways to draw students and faculty, as well as members of the community and tourists, to the downtown area. The idea to recreate an evolved version of the old mural was suggested and approved. This time, safeguards were set in place for the new Bothell Mural. The historic scenes were painted on removable panels so that it wouldn't have to face destruction, should the building now displaying it ever meet an unhappy fate.
Discussing the committee's mission, McAuliffe says, "We wanted the downtown area to be a place for the community and tourists to enjoy the history of Bothell. And, we wanted to visually connect the past with the future."
Cynthia Scanlon, spokesperson for the mural committee, mentions that plans have begun for more murals to capture and express the historical spirit, "We're hoping this is the first of many murals done in Bothell. Hopefully, people will want to come to Bothell to see them."
According to Senator McAuliffe, the committee has their focus now on another mural for the downtown area and will proceed as soon as funding becomes available. "We hope to receive another grant this year to continue the Capital Arts mission."