News blog for Seattle's Fremont neighborhood

 

Neighbors finish turtle street mural

By Athima Chansanchai · August 29th, 2010 · 10 Comments

Neighbors who live in and around the intersection of 41st Street and Interlake Avenue North woke up early — some prodded by their excited children — to finish a project that has connected them: a sprawling sea turtle street mural that will not only be a beautiful addition to their neighborhood but also, they hope, a deterrent to speeders.

As the neighborhood is on the flight path to Seatac airport, passengers will get a bright surprise if they happen to look down at the right time. They’ll see this:

Finished turtle

“I’m relieved, but grateful to all the people in the community,” said retired Boeing engineer Bill Lindberg, who has lived in the neighborhood for almost 25 years and who spearheaded the project. “It proved to me how people come together in a community. It takes some coordination and effort. But everybody wants to contribute.”

Lindberg met many new neighbors in the petitioning process set up by the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT), which required the approval of neighbors who live along streets adjacent to the intersection.

Dozens of volunteers painted until about 7 p.m. last night and started again this morning around 9 a.m. Painting finished with the black outlines at about 4:30 p.m. Neighbors enjoyed a barbecue afterward, while kids jumped off their energy in a giant Blues Clues bouncy ball set-up provided by Brian Eaton, a firefighter who worked a 24-hour shift yesterday and spent all day today painting alongside his wife Kathy and their two young sons, Cooper and Mason, who all painted yesterday.

Turtle overall

Painting process
Cooper Eaton waits for more paint from Michael Sauer, pouring into a container held by Bill Lindberg

Kate Gengo (shown below) moved to Seattle from her native New York city and has lived in the neighborhood for four years. As a single woman, she hasn’t had too many opportunities to get to know her neighbors, who tend to be busy families. But getting involved with the project has changed that.

Kate Gengo

“This is the only way I’m able to meet my neighbors on a personal level,” said Gengo, who is studying to be an elementary school teacher. She is an avid gardener who has chatted with folks on their way to Wallingford Park as she’s worked outside.

Working side by side with her neighbors and their kids on the mural has been a memorable experience for her.

“I love to see kids problem solving, how they think creatively,” she said.

Adults tagged female progeny with special praise.

“The little girls work from dawn to dusk,” said Rachel Marcotte, the artist who came up with the design and who oversaw the chalking and painting. “They’re focused. Workaholics!”

Halle Sauer, 8, who was the first to think of making the design a turtle and who helped paint the turtle’s head and shell, as well as a leaf, has already given the new neighborhood pet a nickname: “Bubbles.”

Marcotte said its real name is “Arthur William,” in deference to Lindberg’s name.

Kids painting

Lindberg said the project cost about $1300 in equipment (painting supplies, chalk, etc.), 40 gallons in custom color paints from Rodda Paint (which gave them a discount) and Seattle Department of Transportation street permits. A little less than half of that amount was covered by the city’s Department of Neighborhoods Matching Fund. Neighbors will raise money to cover the rest.

Kuma Coffee, with a shop right around the corner on Stone Way, donated much needed caffeine to fuel the morning workers and Stoneway Hardware donated labor in shaking up cans of paint not even bought at their store.

Turtle overall

The level of detail that went into planning and executing the project paid off, with everything running pretty much on schedule all weekend thanks to Lindberg’s organizational skills and the participation of more volunteers than expected. He built in time for minor delays.

“We got a lot of advice from the ladybug people (street mural at 49th and Burke). But theirs is more simple and only took one day,” he said. “The detail and complexity of our design took longer.”

The project began early Saturday morning with cleaning dirt and debris off the street, then pressure washing, then chalking the outline and adding in paint-by-numbers style markers. Volunteers mixed paint with special grit to give cars more traction and make the road less slick. The paint is supposed to dry at least overnight before cars start rolling over their creation.

“We made huge progress, although we’ll definitely need touch-ups,” Marcotte said. She worked with her daughter (also an artist) Rebecca Aldrich, this morning to redraw the chalk lines that blew away from the day before. There were also other snafus — more comical than catastrophic — along the way. “Some kids got paint on their shoes and walked around. One girl got paint on her butt and kept sitting in the white area. But that’s part of the fun. I’m glad the kids are involved. It’s making me happy.”

All day, neighbors and other volunteers — such as Marcotte’s family — worked together on the street canvas.

“The most amazing thing about this was the people. They embraced it and took ownership. It’s beautiful not to be mine anymore and to hand it over to the neighborhood,” she said. “It’s the most gratifying thing as an artist, to be able to give this to people.”




More News from North Seattle