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Oak Harbor mural work set to begin

The bare wall on a building on Pioneer Way in downtown Oak Harbor will soon be transformed by a mural painted by Nancy Hakala. The project will start July 8 and could take four-to-six weeks. - Ron Newberry / Whidbey News-Times
The bare wall on a building on Pioneer Way in downtown Oak Harbor will soon be transformed by a mural painted by Nancy Hakala. The project will start July 8 and could take four-to-six weeks.
— image credit: Ron Newberry / Whidbey News-Times

Donning a fresh coat of primer, a bare wall in downtown Oak Harbor is about to be transformed into a work of art.

Funds were raised and an artist chosen to paint a mural that will beautify a wall along Pioneer Way and provide some detailed history about Oak Harbor.

Nancy Hakala, a well-known mural artist from Northern California, was commissioned to paint the side wall of the privately owned building at 841 Pioneer Way, home of Allure Salon & Spa.

The mural will resemble an open book and will include seven historic images spanning several decades from Oak Harbor and North Whidbey Island under the banner, “Historic Downtown Oak Harbor.”

There will be an image of the Deception Pass Bridge under construction from the 1930s and a picture of a PBY-5A Catalina aircraft used when Whidbey Island Naval Air Station opened in 1942.

The mural also will feature Skagit Tribe members, an orca whale, a bald eagle, a view of Pioneer Way in the 1960s and the old Maylor store and dock.

Some of the images came from black and white photos that appear in the book, “De Ja Views: Historical Pictorial of Whidbey Island,” by Dorothy Neil.

“It’s going to be cool,” said Karen Mueller, owner of Wind & Tide Bookshop who spearheaded the “Pioneer Way Muralization Project.

“A little bit girly, but that’s OK. I think it will be something people will stop and look at.”

Mueller began searching for an artist in April and was contacted by Hakala after she read about the project in a newspaper article.

Hakala lives in Auburn, Calif., northeast of Sacramento. However, Whidbey Island has become sort of her summer home as she often spends several weeks a year visiting her sister Julie Hakala in Greenbank.

“It’s one of the most beautiful places on earth,” Hakala said.

Hakala said she’s eager to begin the project with a starting date planned for July 8. The mural could take four-to-six weeks to complete, depending on the weather.

Hakala figures she’s done about 24 large murals and this will be one of her largest, estimated at 15 feet tall and 55 feet wide.

Hakala’s murals can be seen at hospitals, churches, museums and private residences throughout Sacramento and Placer County. She recently was selected as an Artist in Residence for Placer Arts and is a member of the Artists Guild of San Francisco.

“Her work is really quite pretty,” Mueller said.

The spark behind the mural concept was Mueller, who grew tired for seeing the bare wall across the street from her bookstore and decided to lead a project to change it.

She began a fundraiser and has received donations of $6,500 so far from businesses, private citizens and organizations with hopes of raising another $1,000.

She said Island Thrift was the biggest sponsor, and city Councilman Rick Almberg made a significant donation. But, she praised everyone’s support, including Sherwin-Williams Paint Store, which donated the paint.

Hakala is using the mural painting as a teaching opportunity and is getting assistance from three advanced art students from Oak Harbor High School: Meagan Winans, Kayleen Araullo and Kelsey Krueger.

“I’d really like to have them be a large part of painting the mural,” Hakala said.

“I’ve been an art teacher for many years.”

After getting approval to decorate the wall from building owner Chris Saxman, Mueller has forged ahead to make the project happen.

Once Hakala was hired, she created sketches from Mueller’s concepts with the final drawing showing the seven images with captions underneath, designed to explain history and invite more questions.

“I’m hoping it will capture a curiosity for people and they’ll want to learn more,” Hakala said.

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