The sign’s up: museum’s coming

Youth service group creates the new Children’s Museum’s signature artwork.

For their first project, Rotary Interact decided to think big: 12 feet by 48 feet.

The mural created by the new youth service group was dedicated in a public ceremony Tuesday at the site of the Children’s Museum of Bainbridge Island, the new kids’ play-and-learn paradise slated to open this fall in the former Packard Building.

“I don’t think I would ever have designed a mural myself,” said Sally Lindsley, an Interact member who will be a junior at Bainbridge High School next fall.

“None of our club members had ever designed anything. It sort of amazed us that it turned out really well.”

The neophyte artists painted 18 plywood panels with icons that include a fossil, an eagle, a spaceship and the Earth, images that speak to the museum’s mission to further children’s exploration of science, culture and the arts. The local setting is honored by a strawberry against the backdrop of the Olympic Mountains.

Now installed on the on the south face of the adjacent Pavilion – wall space donated by building co-owner and Madison Avenue Real Estate partner Jeff Brein – the artwork bridges the courtyard between the structures. The buildings will be further linked by a staircase.

“The mural is the first of what we hope will be many joint projects,” Brein said. “We plan to let the museum use theaters for education and fund-raising events.”

The mural project got a start last January when Interact, which formed in September, was contacted by CMOBI board members with the mural request. It took several months to get the project organized, Interact leader Andrea Ragin says.

“We weren’t in the ‘let’s come up with a design’ mode, because we didn’t know what we were doing,” Ragin said.

The group brought in an expert, painter Martha Jordan, to head the project. She, in turn, invited fellow artist Kristin Tollefson to help out.

The pair divided the responsibility.

Jordan acted as a liaison between the artists, the museum board and Rotary Interact.

“My main job was to coordinate the different parts of the project,” she said. “I had a blast, as it turns out, working with the kids. It was fun helping it go from inception to installment.”

Jordan interviewed experienced muralists, and researched the materials and techniques the group would use. Lumberman’s and Winslow Paint helped make the project possible with donations and discounts on supplies.

To design the mural, Tollefson and the high school students met nine times, giving Tollefson a sense of their interests and concepts for the work.

“I presented basic designs,” Tollefson said. “They selected the elements they wanted to see in the design. They really made the choices based on what they thought were important to them as islanders.”

“Coolness” may have been a factor in some choices; an image of a great blue heron was edged out by the more popular bald eagle.

Tollefson made a small-scale model of the final design, and then transferred the drawing by hand to the larger grid of the panels – without seeing the whole assembled.

The Interact kids and friends, a group of about 15, worked in shifts for two weekends to apply the exterior latex paint to the panels.

Only when the panels were screwed onto vertical furring strips bolted into the cinderblock Pavilion wall did Tollefson know for a fact that the drawn lines would meet.

“I was pretty sure it would because I had been careful,” she said. “but, yes, I was excited to see it come together.”

For the Children’s Museum board president Molly Hogger and the other volunteers who have worked for two years to make the museum a reality, the process of creating its signature artwork captures the spirit of the overall enterprise.

“The mural represents a great beginning for the museum, as it is a community collaborative effort on behalf of children,” said board member Susan Nakata Allen.

Working on the project helped the new youth group coalesce, say the Rotary Interact kids.

Creating something meaningful for the community...was not only fun, but brought our club together,” Lindsley said. “I really hope I get to do something like this again in the future.”

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