Over the past decades, our community has supported subsidized housing for artists, a diverse mix of art studios, and an appreciation for art in our after-school programs. Because of those who made that history possible, it was easy for me to draft legislation in 2019 to create the Mount Rainier Arts Commission.
But writing legislation is not the end of the story. Over the course of 2020, our Arts Commission – Valarie Thebarge, Joe Hicks, Alex Kozen, Shahin Talishkhan, and Justin Bost – did the hard work of putting in a countless number of hours to turn the vision of public art gracing our downtown core into reality.
First, they set out to find a business that was willing to partner with us and volunteer their façade for the Commission’s first mural. After several businesses rebuffed our efforts, Menkiti Group and the management crew at Pennyroyal Station responded with excitement to partner with the city. From there, the Commission went to work on a nation-wide call-out to artists. It reviewed over 100 submissions and narrowed that number down to several handful to review at a public meeting. They then narrowed the scope down to three artists to present to the Mayor and Council, recommending that we contract with Yulia Avgustinovich to produce the Commission’s first art project. Well, I think the Commission made the right choice.
Because now, when you are one of the thousands of cars that drive through Mount Rainier on a daily basis, you don't just see buildings or vacant storefronts. You see a beautiful work of art. It is placemaking 101. It is also representative of what we value as a community - namely, our artists - and the vibrant downtown core we all seek to create.