Passersby in downtown Edmonds have been noticing it for weeks – the ambitious mural project honoring the Coast Salish people that is transforming two facing walls in the alley across from the Edmonds Theater into a combination art and history lesson.
Spearheaded by Mural Project Edmonds, a committee of Art Walk Edmonds, the mural is the result of close collaboration between Edmonds resident artist Andy Eccleshall and Native American artist and Coast Salish cultural expert Ty Juvinel.
With a protective clear coat scheduled to go on this weekend, the final details are being applied. One important detail — the signatures of Juvinel and Eccleshall — were added Thursday, as a lasting acknowledgement of the work of this amazing creative team.
“I just held the brush,” laughed Eccleshall. “Ty was in charge of where to put the paint.”
Juvinel, whose traditional name is Zu Waq’ Sub Waq’Waq’ (Lightning Frog), is a member of the Tulalip Tribe and has spent his life immersed in Coast Salish culture. Born with a natural artistic talent, he did graphic design work for the Tulalip tribes and ultimately took up wood carving. His works include paddles, masks, panels and even children’s books which he both writes and illustrates. In addition to his work on the mural, Juvinel is currently creating a carved cedar panel of the Edmonds Marsh that will stand in front of the Edmonds Historical Museum to honor the heritage of the Coast Salish people.
On this mural project, he oversaw the task of ensuring that depictions remain authentic, respectful and reflective of life as it was lived on the shores of Puget Sound in pre-European times.
“Too many times history is written by people who have no care in telling all sides of the story,” Juvinel said in a Mural Project Edmonds announcement. “Fortunately, this mural will be appropriate to the times, and will reflect regional Coast Salish culture.”
Occupying both sides of the alley, the east wall depicts a Coast Salish encampment on the shores of Puget Sound, showing people engaged in their normal day-to-day activities. On the west wall are canoes approaching the shore and laden with items typically carried in those times.
“You really needed to bring along everything you might need in any situation on a canoe trip,” explained Juvinel, who worked with Eccleshall to ensure these items were depicted accurately.
That accuracy extends to the east wall, where two women clad in traditional cedar clothing are engaged in preparing food in a cedar boiling basket, a method involving filling the basket with water and adding hot rocks from the fire.
“Cedar was not only used for baskets, but also for clothing and many other items,” explained Juvinel, who pointed out that cedar clothing was long-lasting, water resistant and became soft and comfortable with wear.
Also on the east wall is a medium size white dog that occupies a special place in Coast Salish culture.
“It’s a Woolly Dog, and is sadly now extinct,” explained Juvinel. “The dog had long hair, which was perfect for weaving into blankets and other items. They weren’t shorn like sheep, but the people combed and groomed them, and hair came off in tufts.”
Juvinel went on to tell of how the Coast Salish people placed a large number of Woolly Dogs on what is today called Hat Island, where they bred and multiplied. When the people needed wool, they would visit the island and pick tufts off the vegetation, where it had been snagged from passing Woolly Dogs.
In addition to the depiction of Coast Salish life, the mural includes a wealth of plants and animals native to the area.
Occupying both facing walls with the encampment on one side and Puget Sound on the other, the mural provides an immersive 360-degree perspective for the viewer where it is easy to imagine that you are transported to those times and walking along the shoreline by the settlement.
— Story and photos by Larry Vogel