This spring as non-essential businesses in the South Sound shut their doors due to compliance with the Stay Home, Stay Healthy order to slow the spread of COVID-19, many business owners placed boards over their storefront windows. A handful of artists in Tacoma were prompted by various organizations to utilize the boarded windows as a temporary canvas, while others took their creativity to more permanent structures like window panes and wooden fences as part of a community project.

Plywood Murals

Mindy Barker is a Tacoma artist fascinated by color, and it shows in her designs. Mindy has a variety of permanent art pieces throughout Grit City, from her vibrant mural on Broadway near McMenamins Elks Temple to the intricate, colorful design on a building at 17th and Tacoma Avenue.

In recent months, Mindy created three more public murals in response to the COVID-19 crisis, but these designs are of a less permanent nature. Her creations at Union Salon along Opera Alley, Straight from Philly on Commerce Street and at High Maintenance Salon on Sixth Avenue feature her signature eye-catching design combined with graphic and abstract details.

Tacoma Art
Mindy Barker has created numerous public murals throughout Tacoma, including this one on the boarded salon storefront in Opera Alley. Photo credit: Amanda Bretz

So, what was it about the pandemic that made the public love seeing artwork within the community? Mindy has a couple of thoughts about that.

“We’re seeing a resurgence of the arts because we’ve realized how much we value them,” she says.

And, what’s more, art isn’t just valued at this moment in history. Art is something that people need for their own joy and well-being, both in hard times and in good. But perhaps even more so in trying times.

“It’s something that helps us mentally,” Mindy added about the importance of art.

Window Mural

Katie Dean draws inspiration from natural elements such as flowers in her designs and they’re often a theme in her artwork. Anyone that has passed by Bluebeard Coffee Roasters on Sixth Avenue has seen her work.

Katie decorated the window of the popular coffee shop with a colorful and vibrant mural. The image is one of flowers along with the words “Friends Are Everywhere” and the piece does indeed have a friendly and inviting ambiance to it. The window mural was created as part of the Hope Grows Here community project created by MultiCare Foundations. The project aims to help keep people healthy and hopeful during the public health crisis.

Tacoma Art
Katie Dean is an artist who typically creates greeting cards but painted this mural on Bluebeard Coffee Roaster’s window as part of the Hope Grows Here community project. Photo credit: Amanda Bretz

Katie painted the coffeehouse window near the end of March and says the process took about a week to complete. The artist typically works with designs that she makes into greeting cards, and for the window piece, she first laid the design out on the computer. Once the design process was complete, she printed it out on a plotter, traced it and then painted it on the window using acrylic.

With the completion of her first mural behind her, the process helped her realize how helpful it has been to have a profession that not only calms others in times of stress but also adds to her own sense of tranquility.

“The beauty of art or having a practice where you can keep your hands busy is that it quiets the mind,” Katie says of her work.

Fence Murals

Melissa Troy and Karin Dhaese together make up the artist duo known as Tacomatose Collective. While they’re relatively new to the Tacoma art scene, Melissa and Karin have painted murals on wooden fences around the south Tacoma area. Like Katie, they’ve created pieces for the Hope Grows Here community project.

Tacoma Art
Artists Melissa Troy and Karin Dhaese painted a mural on a wooden fence depicting a few iconic Tacoma landmarks like the Tacoma Dome, Mount Rainier and the silver Museum of Glass cone, all in one scene. Photo courtesy: Tacomatose Collective

Their two fence murals are colorful and vibrant. One fence features a brightly hued floral design and the other depicts a few iconic Tacoma landmarks like the Tacoma Dome, Mount Rainier and the silver Museum of Glass cone, all in one scene.

“The goal was to create a positive message in the community and to help us process our emotions amid COVID,” says Melissa of the two pieces she and Karin painted.

In addition to their artwork on fences throughout Tacoma, Melissa and Karin are partnering with the grassroots community non-profit Safe Streets Campaign to make a sticker for the organization based on one of their fence mural designs.

Tacoma Art
Karin Dhaese (left) and Melissa Troy (right) are two artists that form the creative duo Tacomatose Collective who have painted murals on fences in south Tacoma. Photo courtesy: Tacomatose Collective

For more information about the Hope Grows Here community project and how to become a volunteer for the project, visit MultiCare’s website.

No matter the surface, or the artists that have created something on that surface, there’s a tie that binds in these works. And that thread goes beyond the artwork being a response to the global pandemic. Through words, flowers, and iconic images of the Tacoma city skyline, the murals all share the same message which is one of hope, unity, and love.

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