Instead of flushing found objects, artist crafts mosaic in downtown restroom
December 21, 2010
By Almeera Anwar
Ever stared at a blank wall and thought how much better it would look with a piece of art on it? Catherine Thompson and other members of artEAST, did — and decided to make the whole wall a piece of art instead.
Thompson, a former graphic designer, worked long hours daily for two weeks, creating a mural in the new artEAST Art Center and UP Front Gallery in downtown Issaquah.
When the artEAST organization moved into this new space, in the former Lewis Hardware building, one of the requirements was to have two bathrooms that met ADA standards, but a group like this had no intention of stopping there.
“Since we are a group of artists, we don’t have to stop at requirements. We can do better than that, and we put our own artistic interpretation into them,” said Deby Harvey, an artEAST founding member who currently serves on the board. “They were nice before, but we wanted every part of the art center to say ‘art,’ so we made them into art.”
Two restrooms are available to men and women and both now contain mosaics that take up the entire wall in the bathroom, each are roughly the same height but vary in length. The mural Thompson created is located in the back restroom and the one in the front was created by two other artists, Judie Lee and Barbara Center.
Thompson said as far back as she can remember, she has always loved art; her mother was an artist, as well. But a piece this size was an entirely new undertaking.
“The day that I put in the last piece, I don’t think I turned around to look at it,” she said. “Now, I can look back at it, see all the pieces and really appreciate what each one brings to the piece.”
Thompson described some of the pieces of the mosaic: champagne bottle corks from the day they first got the new location, spare keys from the basement of the hardware store and items from their old space.
“While I was working, I noticed that Catherine would come in early in the morning and set up her table and start sorting through tiles and glass pieces,” Carol Ross, a full-time artist and volunteer for artEAST events and sales, said. “One of the special aspects of the design was that as Catherine drew it out on the wall, artists and visitors to the center and gallery would stand and watch.
“Viewers of this process brought in things they had or knew about that would look great installed with the tile.”
Over the course of two weeks, a mural that was originally meant to decorate a bathroom had become a representation of an entire community of artists. Members of artEAST are thrilled with the amount of publicity that the new art center has brought to the organization as a whole, Ross said.
“ArtEAST is a nonprofit arts group here in Issaquah that serves the whole Eastside. The goal is to bring art into all aspects of the community. We focus on exhibiting our work, teaching others and creating art overall,” Harvey said. “The organization has grown from a handful of artists with a good idea to a pretty significant group that has become an integral part of community.
“It’s not just about showing art, but also saying something through our art.”
ArtEAST has launched a series of education classes, covering all media from music and movement to acrylics and wire wrapping, according to Harvey. All of the instructors are members of artEAST and include prominent members of the Northwest arts community as well as emerging artists.
The organization as a whole is looking forward to all of the opportunities that the new arts center brings them — such as the opportunity to offer classes and to make it a collaborative working space for all artists, Harvey said.
“As we enter that space, we each can see the future of artEAST in the path on the wall,” Ross said, “and know that all of us together are a part of it.”
Almeera Anwar is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.