As a proud Pacific Northwesterner myself, I can attest to the adoration we have toward Mount Rainier. She is our mountain, after all, a majestic, snow-white pillar standing tall on our skyline, sometimes sparkling with the cotton-candy and lavender hues of the sunset. The mountain represents the epitome of why so many folks are drawn to the Pacific Northwest, the very spirit of the landscape. What does it mean to “Live Like the Mountain is Out?” It is likely you have seen a glimmer of what I am referring to. “South Sound Proud” is a phrase gracing newspapers, stickers, billboards, murals and publicly displayed art pieces. It is everywhere, but what does it all mean? And where did it begin?
After some sleuthing, I connected with Courtenay Chamberlin, Project Manager at South Sound Together. South Sound Together is a non-profit group that partners with dozens of local businesses and organizations working together on two major goals: spreading the news about the South Sound through print and digital advertising and sharing stories about what makes our community a great place to live and do business. Chamberlin says of South Sound Proud’s roots, “The campaign all started when South Sound Together and a few others started talking about how we tell our story about who we are and what we’re like here. It’s the brain child of David Zeeck, of The News Tribune, really.”
Chamberlin went on to talk about the nine months of scheming and brainstorming invested in developing the campaign. The idea was to find a way to tell our story by deciding what language we use when we talk about ourselves as a community and then finding ways to invite the community to engage in the dialogue. Since its official launch in the spring of 2017, the campaign has flourished as a community endeavor, and folks have fully embraced it.
A part of the initial conversation led to South Sound Together connecting with local advertising firm JayRay to begin branding the campaign. The organizers then contracted six South Sound artists to contribute to the unveiling of the project through compelling mediums. “They took a huge leap of faith,” Chamberlin says, because the group let the artists decide what their piece of the dialogue would look like. It was a surprise for everyone and included a mural on the side of Sumner’s Craft 19 Espresso and Creperie, chalk stencil street art and blinking lit-up boxes that moved around town. Participating artists, including Brian Hutcheson, Diane Hansen, Jeremy Gregory, Michael Hochstatter, Ryan Federson and Steve LaBerge, each specialize in unique and diverse mediums.
In the beginning the South Sound Proud team remained a bit of a mystery, taking social media channels by storm with #SouthSoundProud. The saturation of the campaign, resonating message and community pride made people want to get to the bottom of it all.
Chamberlin tells me, “We wanted to see if it resonated with people and then see where people take it next.” South Sound Proud street teams can be found at local festivals handing out swag, including t-shirts, stickers and other giveaways. And though in the beginning the group used an online vendor for shirt sales to preserve anonymity, they are switching to a storefront platform and partnering with T-Town Apparel after this summer. Besides looking sweet in your new duds, 20-percent of sales will benefit community partners.
So, what is next? It will be a surprise for everyone. The South Sound Proud team remains open to ideas and intends the campaign to continue as a community effort in creative collaboration. Have an idea, or want to learn more? Check them out at southsoundproud.org or follow some of their adventures on Twitter @SSoundTogether or Instagram @south_sound_proud.