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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Local artists hope to show Spokane through the eyes of mother nature

UPDATED: Tue., May 7, 2019

As a BNSF train passes as artists Shelby Allison and Susan Webber paint the bottom layer of their 160-foot mural, Wednesday, May 1, 2019, on Stevens Street just south of First Avenue in downtown Spokane. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
As a BNSF train passes as artists Shelby Allison and Susan Webber paint the bottom layer of their 160-foot mural, Wednesday, May 1, 2019, on Stevens Street just south of First Avenue in downtown Spokane. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

Two artists hope to show Spokane through a feminine perspective, with a mural depicting the city through the eyes of Mother Nature.

The mural features two women, one of whom is cradling a baby to her chest. The painting is just an outline of two bodies against a blue backdrop now, but artists Shelby Allison and Susan Webber plan to weave Spokane monuments, trees and flowers throughout the final piece.

Webber, one of two artists painting the mural along the north wall of the raisde railroad line through downtown Spokane just west of Stevens Street, said raising three children and her work as a lactation consultant in part inspired the mural.

“My life revolves around motherhood,” she said.

The final version of the piece will include lilacs, evergreen trees and the Clocktower in Riverfront Park, Allison said. She said her favorite part of the piece, however, is how they plan to incorporate the gondolas that span the Spokane River. One of the women depicted will be holding gondolas in her hand, and her arm will function as the cable.

“We wanted to give Spokane a feminine touch,” she said.

Webber said both she and Allison usually depict women or feminine concepts in their art, and they’ve worked together on projects in the past. Both said they’ve been artists most of their lives and have been featured locally, such as at FEMFEST, Terrain and the VHS Art Club show. Allison graduated from Eastern Washington University last year with a degree in graphic design and works as a waitress; Webber works with mothers at the Women, Infant and Children Nutrition Program as a lactation consultant.

Webber said the piece is a blend of their styles, which she describes as feminine and edgy.

“We’re not everybody’s cup of tea,” she said.

She said after online comments and a story ran on KHQ News warning people not to be alarmed by the seemingly nude women painted on Stevens Street, the two artists used black spray paint to temporarily censor the figures’ breasts, though the art never included nipples.

Webber, a breast cancer survivor who has had a double mastectomy, said nudity and breasts aren’t necessarily sexual or offensive, and the final version of their art will be much more than than a depiction of women’s bodies.

“It’s like turning two pages in a book and thinking you know what it’s about,” she said.

Mika Maloney, program manager for Spokane Arts, said the mural is one of about a dozen spread throughout downtown and there are a few more in the works.

She said in the future, Spokane Arts hopes to increase its mural budget so more artists can afford to participate in projects.

She said Spokane Arts so far has not received any complaints about the piece.

Webber said they hoped to paint the mural last fall, but inspection issues caused a delay and they ended up waiting until spring. Webber also was undergoing breast cancer treatment at the time and said spring and early summer are a better time to paint the mural because now she is in remission.

The latest piece of art isn’t the only notable mural in Spokane, though. From one of Willie Wiley, to the eyes that stare at passing cars on the Maple Street Bridge, Spokane has a number of memorable murals adorning building sides, retaining walls and underpasses.

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