By Pioneer Staff Writer Maddie Pelkey
Tacoma is a city with a vibrant art scene, from its Art Museum and Glass Museum, to its Musical Playhouse, and the dozens of family owned boutiques and jewelry stores in between. Still, some of the most prominent pieces of Tacoma’s local art (as well as history) come from its colorful murals decorating downtown Tacoma.
The murals in Tacoma mix culture, advocacy, and tradition into art and with the help of Downtown on the Go and Spaceworks Tacoma, the legacies and meanings of these murals can be explored and discussed via a virtual 1.1 mail tour.
The first mural the tour shows you is titled Working Forward Weaving Anew, and according to the guides this mural “is designed to honor cultural traditions, the natural environment, and our need for new harmonious and sustainable paths into the future.” Painted by Esteban Camacho and Jessilyn Brinkerhoff with the help of a team of nine Native American artists, this mural was handpainted in only 6 weeks and is part of the Prairie Line Trail Project and reminds us to respect the land we share with others and nurture those relationships.
A recent mural that was shown during this tour was a solo painting done by Tiffany Hammonds in honor of the 2020 protests, this mural isn’t painted directly on the storefronts and instead was painted on the boards during the protests in response to the death of George Floyd and the ongoing police brutality. In an interview with Chase Hutchinson of the News Tribune, Hammonds talks about the message behind this piece.
“The message is hope,” says Hammonds. “If it’s our vision, that means we are capable of doing it.”
A more diverse twist on the usual painted murals on the tour was one done by David Long and Al Pikart who took screenshot images from webcam chats and turned them into an art piece drawing attention to the mistreatment of people detained at the NW ICE Processing Center. The words “Queremos Libertad” translates to “We want Freedom” and pushes Long and Pikart’s message that no human should be treated illegally.
The final mural shown on the tour was a beautiful tribute to the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The artist, Nori Kimura painted this mural with four of his middle school students as he said it would be more meaningful to him. It was RBG’s work for equal rights, activism for women, people of color, and members of the LGBTQ+ community that inspired Kimura to paint this mural as a tribute to her work and legacy as an advocate and activist.
My takeaway from this tour was that our state is steeped in history and culture and although it may not always be pleasant we must remember it and keep it with us. For me, the art displayed on this tour is a reminder to embrace who we are, who we live with, and where we come from so that we might pave the way toward a better future.
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