In late 2015, the Mercer Island Arts Council began laying the groundwork for a new mural on West Mercer Way. Arts Council member An Tootill proposed the project and aimed to create a warm welcome for those returning home or visiting the Island by reimagining the first sight they see when entering the Island from the west via I-90 exit 6: a cement retaining wall. After receiving 28 proposals from artists throughout the Puget Sound area, the selection committee ultimately awarded the project to local artist Rachel Holloway.
Holloway has been a muralist, scenic artist, and production designer for the film industry for more than a decade. A fine artist by training, she has lived on the Island for several years, and her mural design, based on her own original painting titled Darwin's Dream, reflects the "the little magical pockets of nature here on the Island." To produce the final work, Holloway created larger-than-life stencils of her painting to adhere to the wall and spray paint the design. She and her assistants Eliza Brown and Sophie Stilon painted the mural, which covers nearly 300 feet of horizontal wall space and rises 14 feet at its highest point, over a six-week stretch in August and September 2018. Learn more about the artist and her process in the link in the "Learn More" tab.
To bring this project to fruition, Parks & Recreation staff worked closely with the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), as the retaining wall falls under WSDOT jurisdiction. Other City teams, including Parks Maintenance, Public Works, and the Development Services Group, provided important assistance to make sure the artists were protected while painting the mural near a heavily trafficked area.