The Twin Cities and beyond are a vibrant tapestry of murals and public art both old and new. Many interpret history, notable people, and reflects and reveals our society now and in the past while enhancing civic spaces.
The county’s largest city boasts a variety of murals and statues. Founder, George Washington sits two stories tall at KeyBank. Created in 1986 by Puyallup artist Darrell Harlow, the mural of the city’s founding father is a public tribute to the former slave. The most recent installation commemorating the founder is within eyesight of the mural. The statue of Washington, his wife Mary Jane and dog Rockwood is just south, upon a bench in the park he is named for adjacent Timberland Library.
From George Washington Park another important part of Centralia’s history is observed. A colorful and abstract mural The Resurrection of Wesley Everest overlooks the park from the former Elks building. Completed in 1997 by painter Mike Alewitz, the mural depicts the laborer’s side of the 1919 Armistice Day Centralia Massacre.
A cenotaph to the four legionnaires killed that fateful day sits below in the park. Erected in 1924, The Sentinel by Alonzo Victor Lewis is a bronze soldier, his rifle at the ready. Below his feet are the words: It was their destiny – rather it was their duty — the highest of us is but a sentry at his post.
Just up the block is the mural of Wild Bill Hickok at the Fox Theatre advertising the upcoming Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show in 1910. Further in the heart of historic downtown other murals are found including the Centralia Hotel, a scene from the 1890s of an oxen logging operation, a mural of a fire wagon and one of a steamboat.
The Centralia Post Office is the home to another historic painting. The oil on canvas called Industries of Lewis County by Kenneth Callahan was painted in 1938. Murals in post offices were created for ten years starting in 1934 to boost morale as a result of the Depression.
Some of the area’s newest art is found in downtown Chehalis. Artist Emily von Flotow’s Chehalis Farmers Market Mural is a colorful depiction of the market just down the street. A train mural adjacent features the local Chehalis-Centralia Railroad’s 1916 steam locomotive with local flora and fauna. In the alleyway parallel to Market Street, find Sasquatch and friends in a truly northwest scene.
Down the alley, a little further is a perfect photo opportunity. The fun and bold mural depict an alien invasion. This recent collaboration of von Flotow with fellow artist Thomas Sutley is one of several by the pair. Another massive scene welcomes visitors to Chehalis. Connecting all the murals is a piece depicting what Kenneth Arnold witnessed in Mineral as one of the first reports of flying saucers. A stroll down Market Street reveals smaller art projects adorning the garbage can lids and benches painted by other local artists inviting you to sit a spell.
Downtown is also home to ghost signs, or historic advertising on the sides of several buildings downtown. Around the corner on Boistfort Street find an intriguing mural of a woman’s face at Dr. Jay Gallinger’s eye clinic.
A somber statue at Lewis County Law and Justice Center is named The Guardian. Created by local artist Jim Stafford, the bronze statue depicting an officer, a little girl, and a K-9 is in memory of local officers who lost their lives in the line of duty.
Perhaps the most joyful of public art is the statue of three girls donned in swimsuits at Chet and Henrietta Rhodes Spray Park. The trio inspires visitors on how to enjoy the facilities of Shaw Aquatics Center.
One of the most observed and massive art displays in the county is the Gospodor monuments. The four sculptures atop high columns commemorate Mother Teresa, Jesus, victims of The Holocaust and Chief Seattle. Created in 2002, this towering monument is visible from I-5 and the brainchild of late millionaire Dominic Gospodor. Since his death, the monuments have deteriorated.
Travel east of the freeway and a Toledo Water Tank Mural highlights the area’s history and heritage. Further down Highway 505 into Toledo, a mural downtown greets visitors to the gateway to Mt. St. Helens.
The World’s Largest Egg at 12 feet long and weighing 1,200 pounds in Winlock offers a lot of shell as a canvas for art. Although white now, it was painted as a U.S. Flag after September 11. A Seahawk displayed on the side as a celebration of winning the Superbowl in 2014. To complement the humongous egg, colorful chickens dot the town. There are also several murals decorating Winlock’s historic buildings.
A trip into any of the county’s cities and towns reveals art abound both from before and some more recent. Specific to the area, these expressions are often appreciations of the best parts of this wonderful place. Adding uniqueness to our communities, public art brings cultural value to the area.