It might look like just another downtown Tacoma mural. But the painting on the wall of the Seven Seas Brewery represents a different kind of picture — a future in which more Native American voices are heard in public art and public life. Part of the city of Tacoma’s new Prairie Line Trail, the mural ties past and present in a sweeping story in blue paint.
“This is an opportunity to honor the Native (American) stories that are being told through the mural and engage native artists in the process,” said Amy McBride, arts administrator for the city of Tacoma, which commissioned the work.
The mural, designed by lead artists Esteban Camacho Steffensen and Jessilyn Brinkerhoff, is being painted through June on the alley side of the Jet building at 2101 S. Jefferson Ave. It depicts a landscape where Native American people, weaving cedar baskets in the shadow of Mount Rainier, are intercepted by a logging saw and split lumber. The wood and cane weavings peel off into living, flowering branches, trailing across railway tracks in a palette of blue and gold.
It’s one of four new public artworks going up this summer along Tacoma’s Prairie Line Trail, a linear park being constructed around the remnants of the Northern Transcontinental Railroad. One requirement was the art had to integrate the narrative of the railway, tell less-told stories and draw from historic research of the area.
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What makes the Seven Seas mural different is the team involved. Fourteen Native American artists — some of whom have no mural experience — are helping Steffensen and Brinkerhoff execute the 19,200-square-foot mural, are paid for their time and gain valuable experience. The team was selected after a call for Native American artists.
“We see this as a first step in supporting more native-led public artworks in our community,” said McBride.
Seven Seas mural
When: Painting ongoing through June on dry days.
Where: Seven Seas Brewery, 2101 S. Jefferson Ave., Tacoma.