Sylvia Dickerson has lived in Aberdeen for the last seven years. She has been involved with multiple community events through her work in Our Aberdeen, a group focused on creating places for locals and tourists to visit and take pride in. She is involved in numerous projects involving art and Aberdeen including the Healing Gallery at Grays Harbor Community Hospital and the restoration and creation of new murals around the town.
What brought you to Grays Harbor?
When my husband, Michael, and I married in 1998 in Los Angeles, we agreed that we would eventually relocate to somewhere else on the West Coast. In 2005, we started looking south of San Diego and worked our way up the coast. In early 2006, we visited Aberdeen, fell in love with a house here, the area had the services we needed, and we like the weather and the incredible scenery.
How did you initially get involved with Our Aberdeen?
Michael was one of the organizers of Our Aberdeen, a grass-roots group formed to help people create projects that bring pride to the citizens of Aberdeen and to give tourists passing through a reason to stop, stay and explore the unique character of our city and area. I attended a meeting of its Coordinating Committee, where progress reports are given on current projects and new projects are discussed. Mery Swanson, Art Promotion Group Director, gave reports on “Artists of the Map,” “Critters on the Map,” “Urban Art on the Map,” “Murals on the Map,” and the downtown kiosk renovation project. She stated she couldn’t do it all herself, so I volunteered to work on the “Murals on the Map” restoration project, murals being one of my areas of interest and Aberdeen’s murals being in such sad shape.
What Our Aberdeen projects are you currently involved in?
I am chairperson of the Mural Restoration project and the Healing Gallery project at Grays Harbor Community Hospital.
What led to you becoming the chairperson for the Healing Gallery?
I came from a family where I was exposed to the arts and have always made them part of my life. The hospital approached Our Aberdeen about hanging local artists’ works in a gallery-designed space that connects the main hospital building with the emergency and diagnostic services because they had seen the “Artists on the Map” project. We felt the Healing Gallery project was extremely worthwhile; it has been proven that artwork in a hospital setting has a therapeutic quality and the gallery space gives our fine artists another venue in which to display their works.
What are your duties as chairperson for the Healing Gallery?
I work with Geri Stubb, an Our Aberdeen volunteer, in coordinating the hospital’s approval of the selected works, the actual hanging and take-down of the shows, and the artist reception for each show. I work with the committee that contacts artists, schedules the selection committee, selects a curator for each show, and makes sure price lists are available. We have just completed installing our third show for the hospital. Each show runs for six months and most of the artwork is for sale. If someone is interested in a piece, he or she can contact the artist directly regarding purchase.
What is the central focus of the mural restoration project?
The goal of the mural restoration project is actually three-fold. First, we want to restore and preserve the murals that were created as part of the 1988-89 Washington Centennial celebration. There were 10 such murals created in Aberdeen, only five of which still exist. Two of the Centennial murals have been restored in the last year. Second, we want to document all the murals in Aberdeen, which are considerable in number, in both a brochure and website (with a tour app planned for the future). The first printing of the brochure has just been completed. Third, we want to create new murals in the downtown corridor to showcase our history, our wonderful biosphere, and our large and very talented artistic community. We are in the planning stages for two new murals right now.
Who works with you on these projects?
Over 50 people have been involved in these projects to date, but let me mention a few. Rick Moyer set up our beautiful and user-friendly website. Mery Swanson is my mentor, sounding board and collaborator on both these projects. She is responsible for “peopling” our website, ouraberdeen.com, and the linking pages to all our projects. She is also responsible for producing our series of “On the Map” brochures, which showcase our projects. Gavin Miller created our “We’re on the Map” graphic and restored the McCausland Swanson’s Southside mural. Jenny Fisher has restored her 1988 History of Transportation in Grays Harbor mural at the Transit Center and has repaired Dick Creevan’s Heron Street 1925 mural at Lupo Construction. A lot of our “heavy lifting” on the mural projects has been done by the longshoremen of Local 24. The late Allan Koidahl was our first curator at the Healing Gallery. Lee Staley and Robin Harlow curated our second show, and Roy Lowry curated our most recent show. Geri Stubb is working with me to liaison with the hospital.
What achievement are you most proud of?
That’s a very hard question to answer. I would first say the murals because of their longevity and their obvious public nature but, in my heart, I think it is the relationship I have developed with the local art community in an effort to give these very talented people exposure to a wider audience.
What do you do in your spare time?
Michael and I spend a lot of time together restoring/renovating our home and traveling as much as we can. In addition, I read, garden, participate in the Master Gardener program, enjoy movies and do handwork of all kinds.
Any other aspects of your job that you’d like to share?
I am amazed by and so grateful for the support, both financial and in-kind, we have received in connection with the Murals Restoration project. It is a huge and costly undertaking and, if there is a “job” aspect to this project, it is the fund raising. We are always looking for contributors so that we can continue to bring back the luster to downtown.