Teens unveil new environmental street mural in Bellingham
by David Nunez, Staff Reporter
Residents of the Columbia neighborhood can enjoy a new street mural designed by three local teens on the corner of Lynn and West North streets.
The colorful 40-by-40-foot mural portrays animals that are found around Bellingham Bay with a globe in the center. While the mural is beautiful to look at, it also imparts an important message: how pollution affects local wildlife.
Sylvia Briggs-Bauer, 14, Raya Stiles, 15, and Lilly Delatour, 15, conceived and designed the mural. Together they formed A Hope Project, a youth-based organization that raises awareness about climate change through public art installations.
Lilly Delatour, one of the teens who planned and designed the mural, works on finishing touches. (Sophia Nunn/Cascadia Daily News)
Lisa Citron, founder of From a Child's Point of View and the girls’ former teacher, aided in the formation of A Hope Project. The mural is funded through the Project Neighborly grant from the Whatcom Community Foundation, a nonprofit organization.
From concept to reality, the mural had a two-year timeline that faced delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“[The paint] is a special kind of street traffic, water-based paint and it has to go on [with] multiple coats,” said Briggs-Bauer. “It was out last summer because of the supply chain issues, but this year we were able to get it in gallons.”
Despite the setback, the idea met pavement on Sunday, July 23, when the girls and other project volunteers painted the mural.
Each of the girls chose an animal to be in the mural and brainstormed to select a fourth. Delatour chose a coho salmon, Stiles chose an orca, Briggs-Bauer chose a great blue heron and together, they chose a seal.
“We wanted something that would slow traffic and bring attention to what is going down the drains locally,” Stiles said. “It turned out perfect with the storm drain right at the center [of the mural] so it shows how the environment is affected by pollution in the storm drains.”
The three teens said they viewed completing their mural project the same as tackling the environmental crisis — both are only possible through collective action.
“In order to change anything, you really have to bring people together,” Stiles said.
Taj Williams uses a steady hand to help paint the 40-by-40-foot mural on the intersection of Lynn and West North streets. (Sophia Nunn/Cascadia Daily News)
In total, the project had nine artists working on the mural: the three girls who designed the artwork, five experienced artists who had previously worked on murals and one project manager.
Local muralist Ivan Colin, who helped paint on Sunday, said the collaborative effort was new for him.
“This is not anyone in particular’s artwork, it’s a collaborative thing because it took everyone here to make it happen,” Colin said. “[Our mindset was] be like an ant and work as a community by having a hive mind in a sense.”
Isabelle Simons, another experienced muralist and Western Washington University art student, said the hive mind mentality is something that is helpful to younger artists because they have a tendency to be cautious during the process.
“Art does reach a point where things really look like they aren’t going to plan, but they are going to plan,” Simons said. “You have to realize that you just have to trust the process.”
Having worked with the three girls on the project for two years, Citron said it’s a reflection of what is important to them.
“In this mural, it shows our kindred relationship to sentient beings in the [Bellingham] Bay,” Citron said. “That is what’s important to them and they have found a way to share that with their neighbors.”