When Jenny Fisher looks at the mural at the main Aberdeen bus depot, it is like looking into her past. When she started painting the mural some 20 years ago, her children were still kids, a friend killed in an accident was still alive and her husband hadn’t succumbed to a seven-year battle with cancer.
Over the next few weeks, as Fisher, 63, restores the mural, she will — stroke by stroke — bring back to life a work documenting Aberdeen’s history, even as she contemplates her own. When she first did the painting, she was growing dramatically at her job, as a mother as a wife and as an artist.
“It was probably the most full time in my life,” Fisher said, “Everything was growing in my life.”
Fisher’s work, started this week, is part of an effort organized by a group known as the Murals Project, to restore several of the murals on buildings in Aberdeen depicting the history of the city. The members of the group, which is connected to the Our Aberdeen organization working on restoration of the downtown area, hope that by sprucing up the murals they can help to re-instill local pride in the community.
“Our goal was to preserve the murals because they depict historical times,” said Silvia Dickerson, lead organizer of the Murals Project.
The mural at the bus depot is the first one to be restored. The second mural on the restoration list is the painting located in South Aberdeen on the outside wall of the Swanson’s grocery store. Currently the group plans to restore four murals out of 11 murals or “consequence.” The group will then look into restoring others and even painting new ones. New ones might feature a competition among local artists. The group hopes to be finished with everything in two to three years. The cost of the restoration is hard to determine, but Dickerson said there has been a massive outpouring of donations from local government agencies and businesses, much of it coming in the form of donated materials or services.
Among the donors were the Grays Harbor Community Foundation ($5,000), the City of Aberdeen ($2,300 from the hotel/motel tax fund) and Swanson’s grocery store. Sherwin-Williams and the Dennis Company donated paint for the project.
On Tuesday, Fisher was at work priming damaged parts of the mural. The day before, volunteers from the Longshoreman’s Union used jet washers to remove 22 years of grime and dirt left on the painting. Reflecting on the restoration, Fisher said the restoration will cause her to revisit her past with each brush stroke.
“I’ll probably be living my life again,” she said, looking at the painting.
The mural was part of a project by Washington State to celebrate its centennial. All over the state, competitions were held to paint murals depicting local history. Fisher submitted a study of depictions of old photographs of methods of transportation, won the competition and $3,500 to complete the painting. “The study looked very much like the mural,” Fisher said.
As many artists before her have done, Fisher changed the faces or details some of the people in the mural to depict family and friends. Her father appears from behind in silhouette, her husband appears in an old navy uniform, also in silhouette. A son and a daughter, both children at the time, appear. Sadly, a friend of Fisher and her husband died in an accident while she was painting the mural. His face appears on the body of the cyclist in the mural. Even the rock musician Bruce Springsteen is depicted in the mural. Why? Because Fisher missed a concert of his because she was painting the mural
“My life… my children, my father, my husband, Bruce Springsteen, are all in here.”