Hilltop Mural Unveiling, Saturday, October 16 at 4pm

15 Oct

Jeremy Gregory's preliminary drawings for the Hilltop Mural

Like a graphic novel in the unfolding, the 60-ft. mural at 2143 Martin Luther King Jr. Way depicts neighborhood characters held aloft by futuristic flying machines, car-size yellow daisies, and at its core, a dreamy-eyed African-American girl gazing at a friendly cartoon slug. It took Tacoma artist Jeremy Gregory and his team of three muralists five weeks to transform the wall of the abandoned building into a work of public art, and an energizing symbol for the Hilltop neighborhood.

Gregory (right) and painter Marlin Peterson hang out at work.

The work is part of an innovative City of Tacoma mural project aimed at reclaiming neglected and illegally tagged buildings across the city with art created by professional artists and their “student teams” (team leaders are paid; the latter receive a stipend and free on-the-job training).

Community input to discuss ideas for the massive Hilltop work was encouraged, but only Gregory and a local businessman, Eric Crittendon, attended the kick-off meeting. The sparse turnout was both “awesome – and it sucks!” laughs Gregory, explaining that while the situation allowed him unexpected artistic freedom, he had anticipated more local support. Over time though, he says, the community thoroughly endorsed the project, including kids, homeowners, businesses, and people of every age who followed progress with visits to the site. And Crittendon, vice-president of the Upper Tacoma Business Association, did express his opinion about the proposed art: “We just didn’t want another Mt. Rainier or a streetcar,”  but a work that was specific to the neighborhood, and not a cliché. He says he is impressed with the result.

In the 1920s, Tacoma’s Hilltop district was a thriving business area, with a streetcar running along K St. (now MLK Way) to S. 23rd St. Neighborhood enterprises included a car dealership, drug store, meat market, shoe repair, bakery and barbershop – not to mention 17 small groceries and ethnic food shops between S. 11th & S. 23rd streets alone. Times change, and the area fell into hard times, but it has seen new development in recent years. The Tacoma Community and Economic Development Department is including the MLK corridor in its master plan for creating eight new, mixed-use centers around the city. The Hilltop Mural may be a rallying point for revitalization.

Jeremy Gregory is a full-time artist, and he draws a darkly humorous monthly column for City Arts Magazine (Tacoma edition) called True Grit. Follow this multi-talented artist’s work and find out about upcoming events on his blog.

7 Responses to “Hilltop Mural Unveiling, Saturday, October 16 at 4pm”

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  1. View from the Mayor’s Office « - October 26, 2010

    […] is a social benefit to public art projects. The mayor praises Gregory’s recently completed Hilltop Mural as a fine example of how art can bring about dialogue in a community. Neighborhoods become invested […]

  2. Mural unveiling in Tacoma | Marlin Peterson - November 1, 2010

    […] Click here for an article from Tacoma Spaceworks […]

  3. Painting Outside of the Box « - February 3, 2011

    […] certain picture emerges at the downtown studio of Chris Sharp and Jeremy Gregory, recipients of a six-month Spaceworks Tacoma artists’ residency. The two painters (who work […]

  4. Fab-5 Ups the Ante with FABITAT « - June 8, 2011

    […] deft, freestyle wall spraying that helps snatch buildings back from the edge of urban blight (e.g., sanctioned murals) from the type that illegally defaces properties, scaring the neighbors. Maestros in the making: […]

  5. Spaceworks Moves to Tacoma’s Hilltop « - June 22, 2011

    […] apothecary cocktail work on the West Coast”). It is also a city sector earmarked for revitalization efforts. Located  just a few miles south of downtown, the Hilltop is a happening place waiting to happen. […]

  6. Spaceworks Moves to Tacoma’s Hilltop « Tacoma Arts - July 8, 2011

    […] apothecary cocktail work on the West Coast”). It is also a city sector earmarked for revitalization efforts. Located  just a few miles south of downtown, the Hilltop is a happening place waiting to […]

  7. Fab-5 Ups the Ante with FABITAT « Tacoma Arts - August 19, 2011

    […] public who are able to distinguish between the kind of deft, freestyle wall spraying (e.g., mural painting) that helps snatch buildings back from the edge of urban blight, from the type that illegally […]

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