PORT TOWNSEND — Photographer Adrianna Santiago and painter Suzanne Jones conceived the idea of an inter-generational art movement in Port Townsend.
“We are both interested in all the generations working together and teaching one another,” Jones said.
On several warm-weather Saturdays throughout the past two years, 47 artists of all ages and abilities stopped by to participate in what the women call “art happenings” in a temporary outdoor painting space they set up near the Port Townsend Farmers Market at Tyler and Lawrence streets.
All worked side by side on a project that developed into a colorful testament to collaboration, they said.
The result of the women’s vision will be revealed in the form of a community mural installed at an event beginning at 3 p.m. Saturday at 1033 Lawrence St.
The 8-foot-by-16-foot art piece will be permanently placed above the entrance to the Jefferson County Land Trust and Puffin Shoe Repair, in the courtyard of local contractor Malcolm Dorn’s property, a place he’s owned for 20 years.
This isn’t the first time the buildings in the location were decorated by murals. Dorn has historical photos of the courtyard buildings from several decades ago showing the walls covered with images in bright paint colors.
The art project received all the proper permits from the city for the installation, including an thumbs up from the Historic Preservation Commission.
Dorn said panel members were kind about it “as long as there were no fluorescent colors used.”
“I wanted to continue the tradition and history of murals on our buildings,” Dorn said. “I wanted to make an inviting space for everyone to enjoy, a place for people to play music, drink coffee and have conversations.”
Dorn said the property began decades ago as a gas station where Petals, a flower shop, operates today. Then a car repair garage was built, which is the main building. It went on to have several tenants, including the original Food Co-Op and the Abundant Life Seed Foundation.
“Malcolm envisioned something similar to what we wanted to do so, it was a perfect fit for the courtyard,” Jones said. “Out of a conversation with Malcolm, we asked ‘why don’t we paint a community mural.’ ”
Jones said the mural’s imagery represents many aspects of Port Townsend — sailing on the bay, the mountains, forests, agriculture, Native American references and orcas.
“No one knew what the name of the courtyard was,” Jones said. “It was always called Chester Square after Malcolm’s beloved Jack Russell terrier who had a huge personality.”
Chester, who died three years ago, is featured prominently in the piece in a portrait painted by Tracy Bigelow Grisman.
Santiago said that for the initial design phase, the team developed a sketch and then produced a trial piece.
“We wanted to see what it’s like to collaborate in a mixed media fashion,” she said, admitting the experiment worked well.
“We may hang that piece. It’s really cool.”
Santiago explained that the sketch was the road map for what followed.
“We held to that plan for the overall design,” Santiago said. “It was the guide whenever anyone came to our art happenings. We would have multiple options for activity, and people could participate in the mural.
“I found people who aren’t tied to the name or title of artist have more freedom to be creative.”
Dorn supplied the plywood and enamel paints for the project. Techniques used include drawing, painting, mixed media and calligraphy.
“The historical photographic processes of cyanotype [which produces a cyan-blue print] and Van Dyke browns became a collage element integrated into the mural,” Santiago said.
“It’s fun to introduce people to those two processes as photography because it expands people’s understanding of where the medium has come from.”
Along with her photography practice, Santiago earned master’s of fine arts in interdisciplinary practice, with a focus on community and site-based installation projects.
“This project has been a joy for me since coming to Port Townsend three years ago from New York City,” she said. “Looking at the process of making art is like an organically grown performance. The intent of our group is to make art accessible for all and connect with each other through the creativity.”
And being involved with so many people with different talents led Santiago to discover something about herself.
“The idea of perfection for me as an artist with group creativity has helped me loosen up and be more accepting that imperfection is just as beautiful.”
Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at [email protected].