A perfect day, a perfect moment’: UNITY mural revealed

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

Don “Penoke” Hatch Youth Center. Kenny Moses Building. Greg Williams Court. Alpheus “Gunny” Jones Ball Field. Debra Barto Skate Park. 

These locations have become five common place names in everyday Tulalip lexicon. However, the people these locations are named after are anything but common.            They were influential individuals who dedicated much of their lives to supporting, bettering, and empowering tribal youth. 

Each a Tulalip citizen, their commendable spirits are now immortalized in paint as part of a five portrait project known as the UNITY mural. The highly anticipated mural reveal took place on Saturday, April 13.

 “This is a perfect day, a perfect moment,” declared Herman Williams Jr., a representative from Greg Williams’ family shortly after the murals were unveiled. “This is what we are about as Tulalip people, honoring those who had a positive effect on ourselves. Each mural is of someone who was very influential to us as young people, old people, and everything in between.” 

More than 150 community members gathered at Greg Williams Court to share in the special moment as the curtains were pulled down and the vibrant portraits were put on full display. This type of gathering was exactly what the project coordinator had in mind.

“Initially, I envisioned something that would bring the community together and bring families together,” explained mural coordinator Deyamonta Diaz. “These murals tell the stories behind our buildings, who they are named after, and the legacy these people left. To see all five people together gives the families an opportunity to share memories. 

“Also, for the people who don’t know them, they are going ask ‘who are these people?’ and ‘why are their pictures up?’” added Deyamonta. “I think that’s a great conversation starter for the community to keep these people’s legacies alive.”

Legacy was a concept routinely mentioned as speakers and representatives for each painted figure shared loving words and fond memories. A shared hope for future generations to carry on their family member’s legacy through resolve and action, while looking to each painting as a symbol of support when needed, was also expressed repeatedly at the podium. 

Don “Penoke” Hatch gets an up close and personal view of his portrait, while daughter Denise speaks of his long-time commitment to the youth.

Four of the five mural honorees have passed on, with Penoke Hatch being the lone exception. 

“As we look at these murals, it’s important to know each one of them is still here with us. They are here in their families who tell their stories,” shared Penoke. “Each one of them made an impact in different ways. They always took care of everybody, especially the young ones. Thank you to the artists, Youth Services, and the Tribe for what they did here to honor us.” 

Honoring those represented on the Tulalip Bay athletic campus with a UNITY mural was made possible in partnership with Youth Services and local Native artists, Monie Ordonia (Tulalip) and Jordan Willard (Tlingit).

Tulalip artist Monie Ordonia (right) and assistant Jordan Williard (Tlingit) reflect on their painting process during the mural reveal.

“They had a vision of having portraits in mural form of all the legends that these building are named after,” said Monie. “The concept incorporates Native colors, so we used red, black, yellow, and white as the backgrounds. For Debbie, we used gray as the background and then incorporated her grandchildren’s hand prints.

“I like to feel the energy of who I’m painting, like an activation, it helps bring the person to life,” continued Monie. “Once the murals are complete and I look into the eyes of the painting, then I can feel them communicating with me. Hopefully, that helps other people have the ability to do the same.”

The memories of Kenny Moses, Debra Barto, Greg Williams, Penoke and Gunny Jones are kept alive by those who knew them best. Some were beneficiaries of their admirable determination, while others were fortunate to witness their heroic exploits in action. For everyone else, the UNITY mural serves as a reminder that legends are never forgotten. 

Indigenous Futures: Indian Heritage Murals

Mural_3

Photo courtesy Andrew Morrison

 

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

Recently, the Seattle Art Museum presented PechaKucha Seattle volume 63, titled Indigenous Futures. PechaKuchas are informal and fun gatherings where creative people get together and present their ideas, works, thoughts – just about anything, really – in fun, relaxed spaces that foster an environment of learning and understanding. It would be easy to think PechaKuchas are all about the presenters and their presentation, but there is something deeper and a more important subtext to each of these events. They are all about togetherness, about coming together as a community to reveal and celebrate the richness and dimension contained within each one of us. They are about fostering a community through encouragement, friendship and celebration.

The origins of PechaKucha Nights stem from Tokyo, Japan and have since gone global; they are now happening in over 700 cities around the world. What made PechaKucha Night Seattle volume 63 so special was that it was comprised of all Native artists, writers, producers, performers, and activists presenting on their areas of expertise and exploring the realm of Native ingenuity in all its forms, hence the name Indigenous Futures.

 

Andrew Morrison.Photo courtesy Andrew Morrison

Andrew Morrison.
Photo courtesy Andrew Morrison

Andrew Morrison, San Carlos Apache and Haida, is a phenomenal painter and muralist who is proud to call Seattle his home, he is a great 12th Man Seahawks fan, and considers a blank wall his absolute greatest resource. Morrison’s PechaKucha presentation was on the past, present, and future of the great Indian Heritage High School murals he created of Chief Sealth, Chief Joseph, Geronimo, and Chief Sitting Bull.

“Being a Native person, I really take a lot of pride in painting and creating murals. It truly is an honor every day to be able to celebrate the Native American arts through my craft,” says Morrison. “The goal of my painting is to better myself, my family and the community.”

Morrison and many of his friends attended Indian Heritage High School (IHS) in Seattle. In 2001, after attending college, Morrison began volunteering in the art program and noticed there was a void within the school. “I saw there wasn’t a lot of artwork on the walls of the school. The walls were very blank and very dormant, without energy. As a muralist, as a painter, I’m always striving for larger surfaces,” explained Morrison of his motivation to begin painting 25-foot by 100-foot large murals of Native American heroes.

It was a twelve-year project to completely finish the four mammoth murals on IHS, beginning in 2001 and being completed in 2013. The massive portraits of Native American heroes was noticed by news outlets, tribal and non-tribal alike. The portraits are a source of pride for many Native people who don’t see their heroes recognized as they should be. Unfortunately, there were those who saw the massive portraits as an opportunity to vandalize another’s work to showcase their own ignorance, as the mantra goes, ‘haters gonna hate’. Over the weekend of February 24, 2015 a local graffiti crew desecrated the murals by splattering white latex paint all over them.

 

Photo courtesy Andrew Morrison

Photo courtesy Andrew Morrison

 

Only days later a cleanup operation, led by Morrison, consisting of 30-35 volunteers worked tirelessly to remove the white spray-paint and restore the murals to their former glory. As if the vandals’ desecrations wasn’t enough, soon after restoring the murals Morrison learned there was a proposal in the Seattle School District to demolish Indian Heritage High School, along with his murals.

“I fought and advocated for a  year straight, twelve months exactly, to preserve these murals. I felt these images of our Native American warrior chiefs were so sacred and so holy that to demolish them to the ground would be another form of desecration. That was a very tumultuous battle and fight, but I give the credit to the community and the people who believe in art and believe in our indigenous culture. Through the power of togetherness we were able to get the Seattle School District to vote to preserve these murals. Now, these murals are presented prepped and ready to go as they will be built into the new Wilson Pacific Schools to be opened next year.

“Especially after living through experiences like these, it actually inspires me to paint bigger and larger and be more creative and go more in depth. It is heartwarming to know that the murals will continue to witness life and be an inspiration at the new Wilson Pacific Schools.”

 

Photo courtesy Andrew Morrison

Photo courtesy Andrew Morrison