This past summer when the Two Waters Arts Alliance board met, they talked about the pandemic and its impact on events they sponsored each year. The juried art show: cancelled. The Art Walk: cancelled. Gone were two popular activities that bring the community together and showcase the talent of local artists.
Board member Cathy Williams had read about the Downtown Storefront Mural Project in Seattle, a plan to transform boarded up storefronts into canvases. Although Key Center is not plagued by plywood windows, TWAA decided to run with the idea.
They put the word out to artists and provided Masonite panels and supplies. Eight artists answered the call. The murals were installed at various Key Center locations in late January and will be on display through March. The murals will be auctioned off afterward with proceeds supporting TWAA’s mission to bring artists and art instruction into local schools.
The artists were intrigued by the challenge of a large format, interested in supporting TWAA and excited to create artwork accessible to everyone.
“I jumped at the opportunity to step up to the challenge of doing something on a grand scale,” said Chris Bronstad, who moved to the Key Peninsula in 1993 and taught science and art at Key Peninsula Middle School. Largely self-taught, Bronstad has a reputation for striking portraits and landscapes. He took a series of photographs from the Home bridge and painted a mural inspired by the scene of clouds across Carr Inlet. It took four months to complete the piece.
“It’s exciting to have the work up and be a part of the display,” Bronstad said. “There are so many wonderful artists here.”
Ray Steiner had always wanted to paint but never had the time until his retirement as a pharmacist in 2009, when he apprenticed himself with Puyallup artist Frances Buckmaster for two years. His mural depicts the beach at Penrose State Park at sunset. “This is a community project about what we love about the peninsula,” Steiner said. “You can drive less than 20 minutes and know there is no more beautiful place to be.”
Patti and Jerry Nebel moved to the KP four years ago. Patti is an artist by training and has taught ceramics. Jerry, whose mural is a floral image, learned largely from working with Patti. “I’m very excited to see the murals go up,” she said. “I have always wanted to do a barn quilt, so I took it up a notch and used the fine art technique of collage to make the quilt on the panel.”
Max Mikelson grew up on the KP and graduated from Peninsula High School in 2016. He spent about a year in Seattle before returning. “I always painted,” he said. “I started with portraiture and then moved to more abstract images.” Now he considers himself an abstract realist. He has sculpted, carved stone and ultimately wants to work in animation and stop motion. He calls himself an activist at heart and founded a collective for local young artists. When he saw the call for artists he responded immediately.
“I thought, ‘What a break for a young artist.’ It is such a big deal for youth to see what art looks like. I want to send the message that you can be young and make a statement, to speak and be heard.”
Christine Bingham, a Seattle artist, also saw the call for artists. She trained at Cornish and received her MFA in Scotland. She teaches, and has a particular interest in the therapeutic benefit of art. A Washington native, she knew of the Key Peninsula as a beautiful and nature-filled place. “I’m excited to be part of showing art more publicly,” she said. “Art is for everyone and this creates more accessibility.”
Another young artist, Anthony Krejci, has been drawing and illustrating for as long as he can remember. He started painting five years ago and learned about the project from his father. “I am all about spreading the arts,” he said. Creating a mural allowed him to “tackle the largest piece of work I have ever done and to contribute to a public show.” He drove around the Key Peninsula to take photographs, thinking he would paint a scene of modern life. “But I wanted to give a tip of the hat to the Snohomish tribe, so I put in a traditional canoe.”
Carolyn Carr, who has lived on the KP for decades with her husband Randy, was quick to say that she is not a professional artist. “I love art, I love to look at it and I like to experiment. But I know my limitations.” Still, she was excited to try a new medium — alcohol ink — in a large format. “Key Center is growing and has a new vitality,” she said. “Why not try to do my little part in making it nicer for a bit?"
To see more of the murals, visit Key Center, keypennews.org or twowaters.org.
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