When Karen Mueller stares out of her storefront window, she sees signs of progress downtown.
From the street and sidewalks that were part of a major downtown Oak Harbor improvement project to a bronze statue of a mermaid just up the street, Mueller is surrounded by recent upgrades.
However, in the one and half years since she’s owned the Wind & Tide Bookshop on Pioneer Way, Mueller has also endured a direct view of what she calls a “graceless eyesore.”
She decided to do something about it.
Mueller is spearheading a project to beautify the bare side wall of a building that sits across the street from her business. And she is searching for local artists to put on their own creative touches.
For the past month, she’s worked to get the approval and support to make the “Pioneer Way Muralization Project” a reality. The project would spruce up the side wall of a privately owned building at 841 Pioneer Way, which houses Allure Salon & Spa.
So far, she hasn’t run into hurdles to beautify the wall.
“It’s very unattractive,” Mueller said. “Because we’re a one-way street, obviously that’s the wall you see when you’re going down the street.”
Mueller said she’s gotten approval from owners of the building and adjacent lot. She checked with the city of Oak Harbor and learned that a permit wasn’t required as long as the mural was art and not an advertisement, which would then classify it as a sign.
“We tell them to keep it as art, to leave the business name out of it,” said Cac Kamak, senior planner for the city. “The moment you start promoting it as a business, then it goes into the sign aspect of it. Then that becomes something the city becomes involved in.”
Because the mural will appear on a privately owned building, the mural isn’t required to follow the theme of public art downtown. Nevertheless, Mueller is interested in ideas that range from “historical to nautical, from botanical to Navy inspired.”
Mueller envisions a mural that reflects Oak Harbor’s history. Her idea is for the painting to be of an open book with snapshots of the city’s history with captions near the images.
“It’s a place to put a really beautiful depiction of our town,” Mueller said.
That sort of concept is appealing to Dianne Varshock, co-owner of Kakies Bakery on Pioneer Way. She said it reminds her of what she’s seen and enjoyed while visiting Anacortes.
“It does sound really nice,” Varshock said.
Several businesses have already pledged their support of the mural project, Mueller said. Jet City Rentals is donating the power washing of the wall. Diamond Rentals will donate the scaffolding. Paint and painting supplies will be donated by Sherwin-Williams Paint, Island Paint and Glass and The Home Depot.
Other businesses and groups that are pledging their support of the project include Key Bank, Toppings Frozen Yogurt and Oak Harbor Garden Club.
The push now is to find an artist.
Those interested in submitting designs may call Mueller at 360-675-1342. She also is looking for others interested in participating or making donations.
Mueller views the mural as another reason to visit downtown. And not just the completed project.
“Watching people paint the wall would be way cool.”