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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April 2018 Cross-Country Road Trip: Dignity of Earth and Sky Statue in South Dakota

Sumoflam with Dignity near Chamberlain, SD

I love having the opportunity to come upon new and unplanned discoveries in my roadtrips.  While traveling, I constantly check my Roadside America app (which is available for iPhone download here) which has a handy dandy location finder and will tell you the closest of their featured attractions.  While driving through South Dakota near Chamberlain, I did so and came across “Dignity: A 50 foot-tall Indian Woman” statue entry.  Turns out it is located at a rest area near Chamberlain, SD overlooking the Missouri River valley way below.  It was also a Lewis and Clark stopover.

Dignity: Of Earth and Sky – 50 foot tall statue by Dale Lamphere
Dignity statue as seen from below

Dignity (a.k.a. Dignity of Earth & Sky) is a 50-foot high stainless steel statue by South Dakota artist Dale Lamphere that depicts an indigenous woman in Plains-style dress receiving a star quilt. The massive sculpture honors the culture of the Lakota and Dakota peoples who are indigenous to South Dakota.   Lamphere notes on his website:

“Dignity represents the courage, perseverance and wisdom of the Lakota and Dakota cultures in South Dakota. My intent is to have the sculpture stand as an enduring symbol of our shared belief that all here are sacred, and in a sacred place. My hope is that the sculpture might serve as a symbol of respect and promise for the future.”

Giant foot of Dignity
Blackfeet Warriors by Jay Polite Laber, in East Glacier, Montana

I am always interested in things about the various Native American tribes.  Having worked as a tour guide in Arizona, I became somewhat expert on the Navajo and Hopi as well as the old Anasazi cultures.  My travels across the United States and Canada have allowed me to pass through many Native American reservations and lands.  In these travels I have come across many large statues dedicated to these great indigenous peoples (such as the Hiawatha statue in Ironwood, MI – which stands 52 feet tall and the Standing Brave statue in Big Cabin, OK – which is also nearly 50 feet tall).  And of course, in an earlier post on my April road trip, I mentioned the “Whispering Giants” series by Peter Toth, of which I have seen more than a dozen. And there are the Blackfeet Warrior metal sculptures that are at all four entries to the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana. The 44 foot tall Keeper of the Plains in Wichita, Kansas is another good one.  I believe the tallest Native American statue is the 62 foot tall Indian of Skowhegan in Skowhegan, Maine, which I have not visited.

Sumoflam with Hiawatha in Ironwood, MI
Giant Indian Chief “Standing Brave” in Big Cabin, OK
Visiting the Whispering Giant at Starved Rock State Park in Illinois
The Dignity quilt

Back to Dignity – Representing the rich Native American culture of South Dakota, the 50-foot Native American woman wears a dress that is patterned after a two-hide Lakota or Dakota dress of the 1850s. She also holds a quilt that has 128 stainless steel blue diamond shapes designed to flutter in the wind. Apparently, the quilt was also bedecked with LED lights that cause the diamond shapes to glow in the night sky which can be seen from Interstate 90 (which I would have loved to have seen).  The quilt is very impressive as you can see in the photo on the left as well as the expanded one below.

Dignity with Quilt
Dignity Face
With Dignity

Dignity is not only 50 feet tall, but her base is 16 feet deep (to help withstand the strong South Dakota winds on this bluff) and is 32 feet wide.  The statue weighs in at nearly 11 tons and cost over $1 million dollars to make. The money was kindly donated by a couple from nearby Rapid City, South Dakota. The statue was officially dedicated in September 2016. It is truly a sight to see and I was so glad to have been on this highway.

Keeper of the Plains – 44 foot tall statue in Wichita

At 50 feet tall, the statue is one of the 25 tallest statues in the United States.  I have been to 13 of the 25 including #2 – Statue of Liberty in NYC (151 ft tall); #4 – Our Lady of the Rockies in Butte, MT (88.6 ft. tall); Tuo Phat Quan Am in Houston, TX (72 ft. tall); Brachiosauraus in Indianapolis, IN (70 ft. tall); Giraffe at Dallas Zoo, Dallas, TX (67.6 ft tall); A Tribute to Courage – Sam Houston in Huntsville, TX (67 ft. tall); Christ of the Ozarks in Eureka Springs, AR (65.5 ft. tall); Stephen F. Austin in Angleton, TX (60 ft. tall); Hiawatha in Ironwood, MI (52 ft. tall); Standing Tall in Big Cabin, OK (50 ft. tall); Paul Bunyan and Babe in Bemidji, MN (49.2 ft. tall); Hammering Man in Seattle, WA (48 ft. tall);  and The Keeper of the Plains in Wichita, KS (44 ft. tall).

The view from Dignity is impressive as it overlooks the Missouri River valley down below.  This was also a Lewis and Clark observation point.

Missouri River Valley near Chamberlain, South Dakota
Lewis and Clark Plaque at overlook behind Dignity

Finally, I would like to note that South Dakota is proud of its tourism and especially its numerous sculptures which would include the famed Mt. Rushmore, the giant Crazy Horse statue still under construction and the giant brontosauraus at Wall Drug. They have a website especially focused on the sculptures of South Dakota called the South Dakota Sculpture Trail.

In closing, I want to note that in my upcoming book (hopefully to be released at the end of June), I will have a complete chapter on Native American statues and art.

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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April 2018 Cross-Country Road Trip: Signs, Signs, Everywhere a Sign

Sign post in Broadus, Montana

One thing that we all see when traveling America’s highways is signs.  All kinds of them: road signs, exit signs, mile markers, billboards, “Welcome to Our Town” signs and the massive assortment of business signs from fast food places to local eateries.  Indeed, our eyes and minds are deluges with them!

Over the course of my 6000 mile road trip to Washington State and back, I probably saw way more than a sign a mile (on average).  Yes, there are many places with no signs, but then, there are others, such as going through small towns, where they are in abundance.

One of hundreds of Wall Drug signs to be seen on I-90 from as far away as Minnesota.
Lostant The Mint Bar and a Coca-Cola Wall Art sign in Livingston, Montana
Zigzag Inn – Zigzag, Oregon

This post presents a variety of signs from the road.  This “eye-candy” is just one more fun piece of the travel puzzle.  Discovering new signs, whether they be unique neon signs advertising local burger joints to the unique town signs and water towers, these signs are the little “color fillers” on the grand expanse of two lane highways zig-zagging this nation.

I always watch for fun town name signs. This one is in Illinois….not sure if they found the ant.
Welcome to Gold Bar, Washington.

Follow me along on this colorful journey (in no particular order) to see some of the signs I saw along the way.  And watch for the occasional Wall Drug sign to pop up on the ride (just like they do on I-90).

Saigon Rendezvous Restaurant – Olympia, Washington
Starve Rock State Park – Illinois
Luxury 5 Cinema in Mitchell, SD
Billy Burgers – Wilbur, Washington
Old Piggly Wiggly Ad on the side of a building in Helper, Utah
Wall Drug Sign on I-90 in South Dakota
A Sign at a convenience store door in Ferdinand, Indiana. So bummed! Wanted to go into store Donald Duck style….
Sunset Motel Ad on building in Belle Fourche, SD
Classic neon Stardust Motel in Wallace, Idaho
Welcome to Nevada – Denio, Nevada
Sasquatch Sign Company, Manitou Springs, Colorado
Corn Palace – Mitchell, South Dakota
Welcome to Henry, Illinois
Livingston Bar & Grille – Livingston, Montana
Wall Drug sign in southwest Minnesota
Safeco Field Sign in Seattle, WA
Murray Theatre – Murray, Utah
Welcome to Tonica, Illinois
Welcome to Davenport, Washington
Logger Restaurant in Astoria, Oregon
Al’s Oasis in Chamberlain, South Dakota – Largest stop for 200 miles (next one down the road is Wall Drug
Brothers Stage Stop – Brothers, Oregon
Custer Battlefield Trading Post – Crow Agency, Montana
Welcome to Kingston, Washington
Silver Saddle Motel in Manitou Springs, CO. I stayed there. Nice place. That is Pkes Peak in the background.
Iowa River Greenbelt – Iowa Falls, Iowa
Dr. Pierces Golden Medical Discovery Barn Ad in Waterville, Washington
Kit Carson Trading post, Kit Carson, Colorado
Oyster Capital of the World – South Bend, Washington
Winners Casino – Winnemucca, Nevada
Lame Deer, Montana
Roxy Theater – Ottawa, Illinois
Old Hotel Newhouse neon sign in Helper, Utah
Punkin Center, Colorado. Smack dab in the middle of nowhere
Cenex Sign on I-90 warning of last gas station for miles. Chamberlain, South Dakota
Wall Drug Sign on I-90 in South Dakota
Warrior Trail – US Hwy 212 in Montana…taken near Ashland, Montana
Solomon, Kansas
Papa Joe’s in Crescent Junction, UT – The middle of nowhere touristy stop for gas, snacks and odds and ends quirky souvenirs.
Antique Archaeology in LeClaire, Iowa
Jerry Strong Landing on the Illinois River in Lacon, Illinois
Sign at door of Belle Restaurant in Belle Fourche, SD
Cutter’s Barber Shop in Olympia, Washington
Portway Tavern – Astoria, Oregon
Direction Signs in Wallace, Idaho
Black Bear Clothes wall ad in Sultan, Washington
Wallace, Idaho
Yet another Wall Drug Sign – in Western Minnesota
The Empire Theater in Livingston, Montana
Big Foot Road, near the Badlands National Park in South Dakota
Kountry Korners Krazy Kreatures in Kingston, Washington
Welcome to Helper sign with old Coke Wall Ad in background
Welcome to Kentucky, home sweet home
Wall sign in Olympia, Washington
Colorado State Line

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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