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Tuesday, July 23, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Whitworth art students paint Hillyard mural

UPDATED: Thu., Dec. 20, 2018, 3:26 p.m.

Local business owner Jack Miller, center along with Melissa Jones, far left, Grace Ferry, front left, Natalie Benner, front right, and Katie Creyts, associate professor of art, pose for a photograph in front of A & T Brake Supply building at 4715 N. Market St. in Hillyard on Friday, Dec. 7, 2018. Miller has been collecting donations at several businesses for nearly three months to have a mural painted. He then contacted Whitworth’s Lied Center for the Visual Arts in October and asked if anyone would be interested in painting the mural.  Creyts,  who teaches the Community Arts in Practice class, thought it would be a great project for her students. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
Local business owner Jack Miller, center along with Melissa Jones, far left, Grace Ferry, front left, Natalie Benner, front right, and Katie Creyts, associate professor of art, pose for a photograph in front of A & T Brake Supply building at 4715 N. Market St. in Hillyard on Friday, Dec. 7, 2018. Miller has been collecting donations at several businesses for nearly three months to have a mural painted. He then contacted Whitworth’s Lied Center for the Visual Arts in October and asked if anyone would be interested in painting the mural. Creyts, who teaches the Community Arts in Practice class, thought it would be a great project for her students. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

You can’t miss Hillyard’s latest art project.

A locomotive’s light shines its golden beam and the sun peeks from behind a water tower. The white-lettered words “Hillyard est 1892” pop from their red background.

The mural, located on the side of the A&T Brake Supply building, greets drivers and pedestrians heading north on Market Street and is the result of a collaboration between the Hillyard community and Whitworth University’s Community Arts in Practice class.

Jack Miller, a Hillyard fixture and community activist, approached the University last summer. He had $251 and an idea.

“There was a mural on the church that burned down and I thought it would be nice to have another one,” Miller said, referring to Victory Outreach Spokane, which burned last year. “I went around and put out 37 collection jars all over Hillyard.”

He talked about the project while getting his hair cut at a barber shop, and a fellow in the chair next to him happened to work at Whitworth. He told Miller to talk to the University’s art department.

Katie Creyts, associate professor of art, teaches the Community Arts in Practice class and thought it would be a great project for her students.

But first she needed them to understand Hillyard’s historical context.

“We solicited images from the MAC (Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture) of the Hillyard rail yard,” she said. “The students didn’t know much about Hillyard when they started, but they do now.”

She divided the class into teams tasked with creating mural designs. The five submitted designs were displayed at “Give it a Shot” coffee, located across the street from the proposed mural site.

Community members voted for their favorite, and Melissa Jones’ design earned the most votes.

From start to finish this was a community project.

“Tim Herkimer, a contractor, bought all the paint and the scaffolding,” Creyts said. “And Dave (Collier) owner of A&T Brake Supply let us store everything in his building.”

Ultimately, the project included not only Whitworth students, but students from Spokane Falls Community College and Eastern Washington University, as well.

“About 20-25 students worked on it, with a core group of six,” Creyts said.

Knowing they’d have several artists working on different areas at varying times, Creyts had her students create a grid before the painting began.

“Kind of like paint-by-number,” she said.

Whitworth freshman Grace Ferry helped map out the grid.

“Grace was fearless on the scaffolding,” said Creyts.

Ferry smiled.

“The dimension of the building was challenging,” she said.

Fellow student, Natalie Benner agreed.

“It was kind of daunting,” she said. “I’ve never done a project on a scale this size, visible to a large amount of people.”

That high visibility meant lots of community interaction. Cars honked and people waved when they drove by the students at work. And people often pulled over to take photos of the work in progress.

The brick and wood texture of the building presented its own challenges, as did Mother Nature.

Though they started the project at the end of September, Creyts said, “One day it was so hot the paint was bubbling on the wall. Another day was so cold we had to go to the coffee shop to run our hands under warm water to thaw them out.”

In appreciation for the folks who hosted collection jars at their businesses, the students painted each of their names on the bottom portion of the mural.

Funds from those donation jars eventually totaled $700.

“We have $300 left to buy a light to shine on it at night,” said Miller.

Creyts said the project took about 12 days to complete.

“We’ve never done an outdoor mural before,” she said. “The sense I got from the students was this project was empowering.”

Empowering and fun to have their work so widely visible.

“As a budding artist, this is exciting,” said Benner, gazing at the mural. “I did that!”

Lead designer, Melissa Jones nodded.

“I feel proud,” she said. “I drive by with my friends and family from out of town.”

A&T Brake Supply owner Dave Collier is pleased with the art that adorns his building.

“I like it a lot,” he said. “It shows up real good and fits in with the neighborhood.”

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