McKinley Park on Tacoma’s Eastside is enjoying a new attraction these days with the completion of a beautiful new mural painted on what was a gray and overgrown retaining wall at the McKinley Terrace Apartments. Located at E. 32nd Street and McKinley Avenue, the mural is a snapshot of the way life used to be for Native American people centuries ago in the very location where the mural is situated – two Native American hunters moving in on a bear while a third acts as a lookout from behind a tree. Artist and Puyallup Tribal member Andrew Duenas chose this theme to honor our region’s rich tribal history, as the McKinley Park area was once a fertile hunting ground for the Native American families that lived there centuries ago.
Duenas said he consulted with the Puyallup Tribe’s Historic Preservation Department to learn about the area and develop the mural theme. He said when he discovered that the area around the Tacoma Dome was once a main Puyallup village site hundreds of years ago, he knew he was onto something. “Basically, when you were a teenager and becoming a man you were told to climb this hill and come up here and train to hunt. We live up here on top of this hill and this is where we trained on a day-to-day basis. That’s where this whole mural came from,” he said. “I went home immediately and started just drawing nonstop. I came to realize I should do an interpretation of a hunt.”
It took Duenas one full day to complete the mural, with help from his brother, Daniel (Puyallup Tribe), and nine-year-old daughter. The Eastside Neighborhood Advisory Council was instrumental in making the mural happen, namely its president Lynette Scheidt and vice-president Tara Scheidt, who is also secretary of the Dometop Neighborhood Alliance. The mother-daughter team had seen Duenas’ work on the side of Friesenburgers restaurant at East 26th and ‘D’ Street and went in search of the artist.
“After months of asking and searching for the artist we finally came in contact with Anthony Duenas,” said Lynette Scheidt, who is also president of the Dometop Neighborhood Alliance. “We told him we really would like to incorporate some Native American artwork into the Eastside.” With Tara Scheidt’s husband and children being members of the Quinault Tribe, it seemed like serendipity for the Scheidts to hook up with Duenas and his artistic skills. An Eastside resident his entire life, Duenas said he has been interested in art ever since he was small child with a box of crayons.
Duenas’ bear hunting scene is actually the second piece of public artwork he’s completed. The first piece is on the walls of the storage building at Dometop Community Garden – two hummingbirds, chosen for their animal totem symbols of life and joy. The larger mural, however, came with more obstacles to overcome during the process, particularly in securing the necessary paint and supplies.
Tara and Lynnette Scheidt said they went to many businesses and got donations of paint, rollers, brushes, spray paint and buckets so the brothers could do the artwork. They also relied on donations from the community for paint especially, which can get quite expensive when used for large mural projects.
Lynetter and Tara Scheidt hope that the mural will help attract more Native American families to the Eastside to get involved in the community. “A good portion of the Eastside is on tribal property and we feel this is a first step in bridging the gap between the Neighborhood Council and the tribe,” Lynette said, referring to the Puyallups. “We would like to get more input from the tribe. We have an open seat on the board that we have hopes to fill with a tribal member.” She said that while the Eastside Neighborhood Advisory Council has nine areas of Tacoma represented by council members, one of those areas is on tribal property and it is not represented at this time.
“Artwork is needed in every neighborhood,” Lynette Scheidt said. “It makes people proud of where they live. The (Dometop) Community Garden would like to have a story pole someday to tell the history of our neighborhood and to bring awareness to the neighbors about the history of where they live.”
Duenas said he has his sights set on painting a future mural at East Portland Avenue and East 32nd Street.
“For that one I have drawn up a thunderbird, an eagle and a raven and they’re all looking up at the sky toward the sunrise. I’m just waiting for more paint.”
Anthony Duenas, and the Scheidts, said they welcome gift card donations with which to purchase paint. Contact the Eastside Neighborhood Advisory Council via their website at http://www.eastsidetacoma.net.