Clark County Mural Society Is Spreading Beauty in Vancouver One Wall at a Time, Transforming Public Spaces With Art

This mural is featured on the wall of Butcher Boys located at 4710 E Fourth Plain Blvd., painted by Lee Sekaquaptewa. The art depicts characteristics of the Northwest. Photo credit: Audrey Clark

When is the last time you noticed a mural in your town or city? Thanks to the Clark County Mural Society, more than 40 murals are gracing the walls throughout downtown Vancouver, Uptown Village, and Fourth Plain Boulevard. The mural society is spreading beauty throughout Vancouver one wall at a time and is dedicated to the creation of mural art that transforms public spaces and individual lives in our community. The nonprofit’s mission also aims to increase tourism and improve commerce.

Sugar Skull Girl, painted by Christian Barrios. This mural is located at Dulce Tentacion Bakery on 3220 E Fourth Plain Blvd. and depicts the Day of the Dead, a celebration of the lives of the deceased. The tradition is traced back to the days of the Aztec. Photo credit: Audrey Clark

“There is so much space in any city that could be used to generate interest and curiosity, and we just paint it white,” says Jerry Rolling, co-founder of Clark County Mural Society. There are thousands of missed opportunities on sides of buildings, walls, freeway overpasses, and bridges to connect to our past, our aspirations and our achievements.”

The mural society has been successfully connecting people and communities through mural art since 2004 when the nonprofit was started. Rolling and his colleague Nikki White, also a co-founder, formalized the organization after nearly two years of conversations about the benefits of a mural program. Those benefits include inspiring and energizing the city and community; beautifying city streets; decreasing vandalism; eliminating graffiti; and creating a greater appreciation of visual arts and historical significance. The vision for artistic identity and cultural richness, including celebrating diversity, are among the mural society’s goals.

“The murals build community, and boost commerce, tourism, and small business growth,” says Audrey Clark, president for the Clark County Mural Society. “There are a lot of dynamics, and it puts art out there, which everybody can appreciate.”

Painted by Guy Drennan, this mural art commemorates Vancouver’s independent local newspaper and is located downtown on 701 W 8th Street. Photo courtesy: The Clark County Mural Society

The Clark County Mural Society, The City of Vancouver, and Fourth Plain Forward partner with residents, businesses, and property owners to select walls and the art that will adorn them. Donations are welcome to help with supplies and to raise funds. Sherwin-Williams donates paint to help make the murals possible. And, Rolling says, thanks to the city, the murals along Fourth Plain Boulevard happened.

Artists are chosen from near and far to bring their visions to life and brighten our city. “Each mural has a story, and all of the murals have significance to the area,” says Clark jovially. “Art speaks to everybody on different levels.”

Downtown murals include the Lewis and Clark Expedition located at 115 W 7th Street, painted by David Van Overeem in 2014; Chinook Nation on 506 Washington Street, painted by Travis Czekalski in 2012; and the one-of-a-kind Remembrance Wall spanning a 550-foot retaining wall located just west of the railroad underpass at Columbia and Fourth Streets. The Remembrance Wall was first painted in 2005 by SubM2, a Portland collective of artists. The intention was to coordinate the mural with Celebrate Freedom, sponsored by The Historic Trust.

Martin Luther King, Jr., painted by Christopher Rice. This mural art is located at 3220 E Fourth Plain Blvd. on the west wall and depicts a celebration of diversity and remembering King’s leadership bringing progress to our understanding of civil rights. Photo courtesy: The Clark County Mural Society

Many artists have painted on the panels over the years, including Jeben Berg, David Van Overeem, and Guy Drennan, the first experienced muralist to paint for the Clark County Mural Society (he has participated with a number of murals). The Remembrance Wall artfully honors military veterans from World War II to Vietnam. Additional downtown mural highlights include a tribute to Vancouver’s sister city Joyo, Japan, on the east back wall of Kiggins Theatre located on 1011 Main Street, painted in 2018 by Cimmaron Brodie.

Murals along the Fourth Plain Boulevard corridor celebrate diversity, awareness of our international strengths, and multicultural pride of the area. This mural map, courtesy of Rolling, is a great way to trek out to see some of the vibrant mural art downtown and along the Fourth Plain Boulevard corridor.

Research Reveals Relevance

According to the mural society, research shows that academics and scholars throughout the world have long praised the use of murals as a promotion of culture and their beneficial effects on the cities and towns who employ them.

Girl at Becerras International Groceries located at 3503 E Fourth Plain Blvd., painted by Catya Elise. This image was affected by the smoke from the 2020 fires. The smoke became part of the character of the image, and is now part of the story. Photo credit: Audrey Clark

Rolling explains research around mural programs has shown small cities use mural art to increase tourism, and large cities tend to use mural art to engage young people in value-adding service activity to promote healthy communities. Vancouver is a medium sized city, close to a major city (Portland) and transit lines, so it falls into an in-between category.

“What is unusual about Vancouver, is the number of historical events that happened right here,” says Rolling. “It is a natural advantage over other cities as far as connecting communities.”

Summer of Murals 2021

Artists Sarah Lynne Hunter and Travis London have been selected to paint murals on River City Church and Thai Little Home located along Fourth Plain Boulevard. The theme for Summer of Murals 2021 is International Diversity with Unity. The mural art will celebrate the diverse cultural heritage of the area.

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