PORT TOWNSEND — The artist wanted to give her town a parting gift. She had an image in mind: the wings of a bald eagle, the native bird she’s seen as a sign of good luck throughout her youth here.
Nora Kingsley, 18, envisioned the wings on the back of the Quimper Mercantile, where Washington State Ferry passengers would see them as they sailed into Port Townsend.
That was last winter. Then a senior in high school, Kingsley started up the path of permissions: building owner, property manager, city Historic Preservation Commission.
“She was pretty fearless and undaunted,” said John McDonagh, senior planner with the city of Port Townsend.
“I learned a ton along the way,” said Kingsley, standing beside the mural she’s finishing.
Today her wings, spread full and flying over a blue, mountainous horizon, adorn the wall of the Flagship Landing building facing Tyler Street Plaza.
Kingsley is juggling two jobs this summer, as a waitress in one eatery and as a deli worker at another, so she has one day off a week to devote to the mural.
When Kingsley talked with property manager Julia Price about her Mercantile idea, the two women veered over to a different building. The Flagship Landing at the corner of Water and Tyler streets, which Price also manages, would be a better spot, they decided. The plaza could use a work of art, and pedestrians could get right up close to it.
As Kingsley has filled in the feathers — they started out white and angelic before she added dark brown accents— passers-by have been arrested by the sight. Parents take photos of their children; spouses snap pictures of each other, and everybody has grown a magnificent pair of wings.
And as if to add a musical score, David Rondeau, 11, sings and plays his violin just about every afternoon at the front edge of the square.
This is what McDonagh calls “pedestrian interaction with the streetscape” — what you want for a healthy town.
The wings were Kingsley’s senior project as she graduated this year from Port Townsend High School. They’re also something she’ll leave behind when she and a friend move to Eugene, Ore., next month.
After a gap year there, she hopes to enroll at the University of Oregon. She’s still deciding what to major in.
When asked how she learned to paint, she credited her mother, Amanda. They have always made art together.
These many months of working with Price, McDonagh and the city Historic Preservation Commission — Kingsley’s mural is surrounded by 19th-century edifices — have been an education.
Through it all she showed grit: McDonagh said he hears from “lots of people wanting to do artistic murals,” but not so many who hang in through the process.
He added that the city has no formally adopted guidelines for works like Kingsley’s.
“This,” however, “is a great installation,” McDonagh said.
And it might also become an inspirational example.
Kingsley is near completion of this farewell present to Port Townsend. She’s bought all of her Benjamin Moore colors from Peninsula Paint Center down the road.
When she starts working, her concentration is deep. Regardless of the downtown hubbub, it’s just an artist and her wings.