Memorial Day morning was festive on East McKinley Avenue as people of all ages and walks of life gathered a few blocks from Eloise’s Cooking Pot food bank to help paint a colorful new mural, enjoy free music courtesy of Mr. Nyce Guy, delicious free food from Dowd’s BBQ and, most of all, each other’s company.
Located at 3508 E. McKinley Ave., most of the mural’s intricate black outlining had already been completed by artist Devona Roy so that community members could come by “to fill it in like a big coloring book,” as Roy described the fun and meaningful process.
Roy expects to have the mural completed by the end of this weekend so that McKinley neighbors and people passing through this eastside community can see it in its full glory. She said she looks forward to the highly visible mural bringing urban beauty to this section of McKinley.
“All the murals you see along McKinley are in alleys but when I go to downtown Tacoma, it’s beautiful – they bring color and life. We want that same effect here.”
Titled “Muted Voices,” the mural depicts four people of varying ethnicities, their mouths covered but still showing through to speak the words “Courage,” “Love,” “Respect” and “Peace.” This, and the multicolor of each figure’s “skin,” are intentional parts of communicating a message of inclusivity and empowerment.
The idea for bringing a mural to McKinley was envisioned by Eloise’s Cooking Pot founder and executive director Ahndrea Blue, who foresaw a work of art that represents not only the very people the food bank serves, but all people who live in and around
“I had a concept because of the gentrification that’s happening here in east Tacoma. I wanted to have a piece put on the wall about muted voices because I wanted to make sure people have a voice as gentrification happens, to give everyone a place at the table,” Blue said. “I told Devona this was what I was looking for – a piece that speaks to you and your heart every time you walk past it, that when you walk by it makes you think. She came up with this concept and it is way beyond my expectations.”
Public participation in the mural was key as well. “The mural itself is amazing but I don’t think it would be as amazing if we didn’t have everybody out here taking part in it,” Roy said. “We wanted a sense of ownership and I think that’s what we’re getting.”
Volunteer painter Leisa Bell lives just a short walk away from the mural site and is also an Eloise’s Food Bank volunteer. “I’m not an artist but I can follow instructions. The fact that an artist can say ‘paint this square,’ I can do that,” she laughed. “I love the message, the color, the beauty of it and just look at everybody. We have a diverse group of people coming together on a mutual project and I love it.”
For Blue and Roy, both are excited for the mural to be in place for generations to come. “I want people to feel as proud as I did when I first saw the piece – to feel that sense of beauty,” Blue said. “This is for the people. The food bank is for the people. We see you, and we’re going to honor you.”
Visit artdeity.com to see more of Roy’s artworks featured on purses, clothing, and more.