April 2018 Cross-Country Road Trip: The Wall Art Murals of Olympia

Wall art on front of Fish Tale Brew Pub in Olympia, WA.  Painted by Dennis Lyons

I love entering a town plastered with Wall Art Murals, especially when it is totally unexpected. Such was the case in April 2018 when I arrived in Olympia, WA to join some friends for breakfast on the first day of my return trip back to Lexington. While driving around to find parking for the Spar Cafe, I noticed that around almost every corner a new mural would make itself known.

Olympia claims to have over 70 murals dotting the city and even calls the city “A City of Murals.” I would have to concur. The city has also created a slick online map with pictures of the murals and their locations.  You can see it here.

A mural titled “Stalker” was painted by Olympia artist Ira Coyne – It is a rendition of a  smaller painting by Native American Activist Leonard Peltier and was painted to honor him.
Giant Octopus mural on the outside wall of the Fish Tale Brew Pub in Olympia. Painted by Dennis Lyons in 2006
Respect and Love Olympia Mural on the Avalon Theater in Olympia. The mural was painted in 2014 by South Sound artist Vince Ryland.

After breakfast, I made it a point to drive around the downtown area and capture as many photos as I could.

Sumoflam with the Marvel Mural in Olympia

One of the most impressive and detailed of the murals I discovered was on the back side the Old School PizzeriaMy research found that it was painted by Christopher Ross, an artist from Seattle.  He painted the 17 foot by 24 foot mural in 2002 based on an old Marvel Comics puzzle called “Marvel Super-Heroes Fantasy Jigsaw Puzzle” which the Pizzeria owner had.  The mural features 132 life-size characters and is a replica of the puzzle box cover.  It was of particular interest to me on two fronts.  One – I currently work for as a Database Manager for ComicBook.com and so the comic book aspect was fun.  Second – I discovered it as the big hit movie Avengers: Infinity War was getting ready to premiere (as of this writing the number one super-hero movie of all time in terms of ticket sales)  The mural apparently took artist Ross 10 days to complete.  Following are few shots of the whole and of sections.

Full Mural of Marvel Super-Heroes by Christoper Ross, on the back side of Old School Pizzeria in Olympia, WA
Detail 1 of Marvel mural
Detail 2 of Marvel Mural
Detail 3 of Marvel Mural
Detail 4 of Marvel Mural
Detail 5 of Marvel Mural
Alternate view of the Marvel Super-heroes mural by Christopher Ross – painted in 2002.

In the same parking lot there is another unique mural entitled “Plankton Mural” by local artist Carrie Ziegler.

Plankton Mural by South Sound artist Carrie Ziegler

Not far from that one is the Puget Sound Estuarium, a marine life discovery center, with saltwater aquariums, interactive learning, and rotating exhibits.  The colorful mural below is on the outside of the Estuarium and is also the work of Carrie Ziegler.

The Estuarium Mural is also done by Carrie Ziegler and features some larger than life estuary species
Another view of the Estuarium Mural
Puget Sound Marine was painted by Carrie Ziegler in 2015 and adorns another wall of the Estuarium
Detail of the Olympia Rafah Mural Project

Olympia is apparently proud of the mural entitled the “Olympia-Rafah Solidarity Mural.” Unlike most murals I have seen around the country, this particular piece of art has its own website (see it here).

Located at the corner of State & Capital in Olympia WA, the mural is 4000 square feet and is an “interdisciplinary mural” that includes artwork from more than 200 participants from all over the world. According to its website, the “Project celebrates and mourns Rachel Corrie through action. Rachel was born in Olympia and killed in Gaza when run over by an Israeli driven bulldozer in 2003.”

Full view of the Olympia-Rafah Solidarity Mural

The Olympia-Rafah Solidarity Mural was started in 2006 and then completed and dedicated in 2011. The mural depicts a large olive tree filled with 119 leaves of organizations from around the world, and a symbolic wave breaking the Israeli Separation Barrier.  There are detailed photos of each leaf on the website for the mural.

Another view of the Olympia-Rafah Solidarity Mural Project (ORSMP)
A view of the ORSMP from across the street

Artist Michael Beeson painted the mural entitled Ganesha on the side of an Indian restaurant in 2014.

Ganesha by Michael Beeson, ca. 2014. On the side of the Great Cuisine of India restaurant
Detail of Oly Cartoon by Arthur Crews

As if the Super-Hero mural were not enough, the Old School Pizzeria has another mural in the alleyway which is entitled Oly Cartoon Scene. It was Arthur Crews and friends. It is supposedly an altered reality of the citizens of Olympia.

Like other artists, Arthur Crews has painted other murals in the city.

The Oly Cartoon Scene mural is also on the side of the Old School Pizzeria
Another detail of the Oly Cartoon Scene

Another work by Arthur Crews in collaboration with artists Vince Ryland and Ia Coynes, covers the east side of the Capitol Theater for the Olympia Film Society.

The Olympia Film Society wall was a collaborative effort by artists Arthur Crews, Vince Ryland and Ira Coyne, all of whom have done other murals in the city
Olympia Wall – panorama view

Olympia has a place called the Artesian Well and there is an abstract mural that covers the entire building front.  The work was done by Jean Nagai in 2015.

Artesian Well Abstract by Jean Nagai

And here are a few more photos from around the downtown area –

Another piece by Dennis Lyons, called Fish, Barley, Mountains on the front of a building. Painted in 2006
A large Salmon mural also on the side of the Capitol Theater. This was commissioned by a group called Procession of the Species
This mural was a collaboration Ira Coyne and Vince Ryland to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Rainy Day Records on 5th Ave. SE in Olympia
Abstract Art Scene – Artist Unknown
Deep Sea Scene – Artist Unknown
Orca Mural – Artist unknown
This mural, called Kali, was painted in 2007 by Artem RHK on the side of an Indian Restaurant

Obviously, I couldn’t get to them all.  Maybe on my next trip to Washington I can.  Olympia is an awesome town to visit.  There will be more about Olympia included in a later post.

ENJOY THE RIDE!  CHOOSE HAPPY!

If you like what you see, you may want to check out my book: Less Beaten Paths of America: Unique Town Names, available on Amazon.  My second book, Less Beaten Paths of America: Quirky and Offbeat Roadside Attractions, is currently being worked on and I hope to make it available in late  June 2018. Click on the photo below for more details or to get a copy of the book.

Books 1 & 2

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