Accuse Therese Kingsbury of being obsessed with transforming Oak Harbor eyesores into beautiful public spaces and she’ll thank you for the compliment.
“Last spring … I was on the prowl in downtown Oak Harbor, noticing big and little things that could be positively changed with minimal effort and expense,” Kingsbury said, adding that she wanted to lance off any unsightly blemishes she found and replace them with celebrated community spaces.
To that effect, Kingsbury established “Rogue One Guerrilla Arts Network,” a nonprofit dedicated to Oak Harbor’s beautification.
The organization operates by sidestepping city hall and approaching private land owners with offers they just can’t refuse, especially when dealing with Kingsbury’s tenacity, she said.
Kingsbury put the first layer of her idea to canvas after becoming disillusioned by how long it took city politicians to install new art. Essentially, Kingsbury said she believes that many small projects completed quickly will have the power to transform Oak Harbor into a stunning cityscape.
So with nothing but her passion and no one but her husband John Kingsbury to guide her, she bypassed politics and knocked on some doors. Unlike many door-to-door service touters, Kingsbury was met with initial “yeses” instead of “nos.”
Rogue One Guerrilla Arts Network now claims many projects on Pioneer Way that folks may have seen in recent months. March’s sculpture gallery, the sidewalk’s rain-shadow paint and the mural on Sweet Rice’s doors are just a few examples of the organization’s contributions.
At Kingsbury’s behest, a construction crew lead by BL Landscapes’ Brian Linson excavated the lot across the street from Pioneer’s Whidbey Coffee. It will eventually be turned into a pocket park, she said.
Kingsbury has also received permission from the land owner of the trailer park at Highway 20 and 24th Street to erect a fence around the eyesore “so that the first impression visitors get when they enter Oak Harbor is more appealing.”
The project ideas keep rolling in, and they don’t always require building materials or heavy machinery. Sometimes, it’s a matter of cleaning a neighbor’s windows or scraping old paint off a favorite business’s facade for a fresh coat, Kingsbury said.
Rogue One recently received a $2,500 grant from Island Thrift, but has more projects on the docket than Kingsbury is able to accomplish with her small team. However, Kingsbury said she’s confident other people will step up to help.
“Why wouldn’t you want to beautify Oak Harbor?” she said.
Through the hustle and bustle, Kingsbury credits her husband with most of what she has accomplished, saying that “he’s one hell of a trooper,” for putting up with her long hours and seeing Rogue One through with her.
“I got bit by a bug and the venom went right into my bloodstream, almost instantly turning me into a possessed person on a mission to change the face of this little Navy town we chose a decade earlier to be our home,” Kingsbury said.