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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

The artist behind a compelling Christmas Eve adventure at the Davenport Grand Hotel

By Ed Condran For The Spokesman-Review

An iconic store closing a generation ago can’t kill a holiday tradition.

For those looking for some Christmas magic, there’s the window display at the Davenport Grand Hotel, which tips its cap to the Crescent Department store. The Crescent, which was Spokane’s leading department store for decades, closed in 1992.

The Crescent, which debuted a day after the Great Fire decimated downtown, is history but the holiday tradition of the Crescent window displays returned in 2017. Emerson-Garfield artist Mallory Battista designed the five-window attraction, which will be on display until Jan. 2.

Battista’s concept includes the northern lights and the North Pole. The Washington State University alumna was inspired after receiving a number of handpicked figurines from Downtown Spokane marketing and programming director Elisabeth Hooker.

“I sketched out the scenes after I received the figurines,” Battista said. “The northern lights was my inspiration. I wanted a broader palette to work with and I did my best. There is just something so magical and beautiful about the northern lights.”

Battista, 37, who painted the 2022 Crescent window display, decided to connect the five windows with her Christmas story, which includes a pond where an elf skates, while another elf is cooking s’mores, a cute naughty and nice meter in the mail room where they have cocoa stations, and the requisite sleigh is in the final window. The northern lights are the central theme and are seen in each window; even when the focus is on Santa’s workshop, the aurora borealis is in the background. The nicest touch is reserved for the fifth window, a crescent moon in the background, which is a homage to the defunct but beloved department store.

“I was compelled to add that,” Battista said. “We can’t forget the Crescent Department Store, which still means so much to the people that live here.”

Battista beams when she walks or drives by the display with her two children, 7 and 9, and her husband because they’ve witnessed folks gaze at her work and take photos. “That’s been extremely gratifying,” Battista said. “I love the fact that so many people enjoy the display. That’s what it’s about.”

Hooker, 42, is impressed with Battista’s vision and execution. “When I saw what Mallory did my first thought was, ‘Wow.’ I wasn’t surprised since she did a great job painting the window display last year but what she did this year was really nail it. She managed to make the whole North Pole and northern lights concept flow. Mallory delivered a great Christmas Eve adventure. But this is why we hire artists. They look at the world differently.”

Battista was a business major, who worked in administrative positions before focusing on her love of art after her first child was born in 2013. “I’ve been an artist at heart my whole life,” Battista said. “The last couple years have been great since Spokane is an amazing place to be an artist. The arts community is super supportive and there are so many artists here.”

Battista is also a blacksmith and will instruct at a sculptural forged necklace class Jan. 28 at Morgan-Jade Ironworks. Students can design and forge their own unique steel necklaces with Battista.

“I love everything about this style of art,” Battista said.

The artist in residence at the Hive is sharing a studio with ceramicist Lisa Soranaka. “Lisa and I are working together on a large community mosaic sculpture that we hope will be installed in 2023 on North Monroe at the base of the Garland Hill,” Battista said.

The duo are inviting the community to make clay tiles on Feb. 4 at the Hive to be included in the sculpture. “That’s going to be a lot of fun,” Battista said. “I can’t tell you how much I enjoy this kind of interaction.”

North Monroe is familiar terrain for Battista, who painted a mural in the neighborhood of a woman holding a bouquet of flowers in 2020, with the message “Blossom.”

“It was during the height of the pandemic and it’s about getting through hard times,” Battista said. “I love what I do since public art brings people together.”

That’s what makes Battista so proud of her Crescent window display.

“I love that so many people are enjoying my work,” Battista said. “So many people have taken photos and posted them on social media. I love that I’ve played a small part in the holiday season in Spokane. It brings me so much joy and fulfillment and it’s what makes our city so great.”

Battista hopes to work on the Crescent window display in 2023 and Hooker isn’t adverse to bringing her back.

“Yes, that would be great for that to happen,” Hooker said. “The feedback we’ve gotten on her window displays has been tremendous. Mallory is so talented and we’re so fortunate to have so many talented artists in our city.”