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Sunday, October 20, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane artist Chris Bovey collaborates with consultant and students to create a mural at North Central High School

The wall of the North Central High School cafeteria has a new splash of color thanks to Spokane artist Chris Bovey, who recently finished a Spokane-themed mural painted in the school colors.

The 1997 North Central graduate is perhaps best known for his Vintage Prints series that feature iconic Spokane landmarks like the Shack, the Davenport Hotel, the Milk Bottle and Finch Arboretum. He’s also done murals at other schools, including University High School and Audubon Elementary.

The mural up on the wall isn’t the one Bovey originally came up with. The school’s mascot is the Indians and Bovey’s first idea included Native Americans in traditional dress, a teepee and canoe. Principal Steve Fisk called in a consultant, David BrownEagle, who used to teach social studies at North Central, to help make sure the mural was culturally accurate to the local tribes.

BrownEagle, an enrolled member of the Spokane and Ho-Chunk tribes, pointed out that nearly everything was wrong. The canoe and teepee were depicted in a style common to the Plains Indians, as was the headdress, he said. “It was all not from this area,” he said.

“It was completely all wrong,” Bovey said.

The students came to the rescue and suggested incorporating Spokane landmarks into the mural. Bovey came up with a view of the Monroe Street Bridge with the Clock Tower, the Pavilion, the Washington Water Power building, the Steam Plant and the Parkade in the background. A Native American man astride a horse is at the bottom, framed in an arch of the bridge.

“This was all the students,” Bovey said.

A caption under the mural reads “One Tribe.” Assistant principal Wendy Bromley said that phrase began coming up as the school dealt with four suicides in one year recently. “We talk about that a lot at North Central, not about community but that we’re family,” she said. “It just embodies how our school feels about each other.”

BrownEagle said he appreciated the sentiment. “I like that, One Tribe,” he said. “It’s all different but it’s the same.”

The mural has been a long time in the planning stages, said Bromley. “It was the class of 2016 that donated the money for the mural,” she said. “It was their gift to the school.”

Fisk said one of the class of 2016 parents, Chad Heimbigner, shepherded the project through to completion. “He was the liaison for the class of 2016 and the parents,” he said.

Picking the subject matter of the mural is one of the reasons it took so long, Bromley said. “That’s the funny thing about art, trying to please as many people as possible,” she said.

Even the colors of the mural were debated. In the end, the red and black school colors were chosen instead of colors considered more traditionally Native American. “That’s something I’m totally OK with,” BrownEagle said. “That’s their identity.”

The mural was completed over Christmas break and Fisk said the students like it. “In it’s simplest form, this represents our students’ voice,” he said. “I love where they placed the Native American at the falls, forming the base.”

The mural will be officially unveiled during a celebration sometime in March, with the date to be announced. There are also plans to sell prints of the mural for $20. The prints will be available at the school and at Atticus Coffee and Gifts at 222 N. Howard, where Bovey sells his other prints.

Bovey said it was an honor to be asked to come back to his old high school and paint a mural. “It definitely brought up a lot of emotions when I came back and was asked to do this,” he said. “I’m so happy with where it ended up.”

He signed his name at the bottom of the mural, which makes him laugh. “I would have gotten into trouble for writing on the walls back then, but now I get to write my name up there,” he said.

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