Saturday, July 22, 2017 This Week's Paper

Murals unite communities

// Tacoma Murals Project instills pride and beautifies neighborhoods

The Tacoma Murals Project continues to move full steam ahead, with the completion of a new mural in the Dometop neighborhood and another at Hope Heights that’s just about finished. Both are brilliantly colored and lively works of art that hold meaning for those who live in these neighborhoods, just as all of the project’s murals are meant to instill pride in those who call Tacoma home.

Since launching about three years ago, the Tacoma Murals Project has completed 16 murals altogether across the city, transforming public spaces, and oftentimes blighted areas, into something beautiful. Experienced artists work with communities to develop mural concepts that reflect the stories and content researched about each community in which the murals are located. The program is an initiative of the Graffiti Reduction Through Community Based Art team, part of the City of Tacoma’s Safe, Clean and Attractive effort.


The mural on the retaining wall at the 3200 block of East ‘L’ Street covers the once neglected, mossy and dirty wall with images of a whimsical garden full of vibrant colors. Rainwater spills down a flight of stairs to meet the plants and insects below, reflecting the simple beauty of the nearby community garden that the neighborhood is so proud of. The base of the wall has been painted blue and has green grass streaming upward in which snails, potato bugs, caterpillars, butterflies and other garden denizens frolic and buzz.

With the help of Dometop Neighborhood Alliance and residents who banded together to put in many hours of labor prepping the wall, artists Rachael Dotson and Jeremy Gregory led a team of artists that included Yvette Simone, Chelsea O’Sullivan and Natalie Oswald.

“I had doubts whether that wall was even paintable given what it looked like,” Dotson said – that is until residents got to work removing blackberry bushes and other blight. “That brought hope to us and inspired us by what they had done.”

Dotson has worked on other Tacoma Murals Project murals, and will be leading the artist team for an upcoming mural in the Hillside neighborhood.

“For me, this has been a huge learning process. I’ve learned so much as artist and a person from this program – I’m honored to be part of it.”


Drivers and other passers-by are already ooo-ing and ahh-ing over the new mural in Hope Heights. Located on the south wall of 6323 McKinley Ave. (facing 64th Street), the mural is a giant tree of life, its branches blooming and thriving on the many cultures that are represented in this neighborhood. Among the images are an Asian-inspired dragon and koi, African masks, a sugar skull (for the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead), a raven to reflect Native American culture, Russian nesting dolls, and drums in honor of nearby Lincoln High School’s outstanding drum line team.

Tacoma artist and jewelry maker Joni Joachims is lead artist for this mural, which is just about complete. “We wanted to celebrate the neighborhood and do it in a colorful, fun style,” she said. “We really worked with the community with what they wanted – a tree to celebrate its diversity.” Her team of artists is comprised of Kate Cendejas, Brian Hutcheson, Yvette Simone, Chelsea O’Sullivan and Janice Lee Warren.

“We’ve gotten a lot of positive responses, people honking and taking pictures,” Joachims said.


Tacoma Murals Project will soon begin work on several more murals. One will be in the Dome District at 220 Puyallup Ave. (east wall facing ‘C’ Street); another will be in the Mann Neighborhood at 5441 S. Sheridan St. (south side of building facing 56th Street); and one in the Hillside neighborhood on the south and east walls of the Waterhouse building at 2502 Commerce St.

Visit to see before and after photos of more completed murals.