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Friday, January 22, 2021

New mural brightens Bellingham’s downtown

Chelsea Graham began painting on Oct. 3, only stopping to eat and sleep

 Up-and-coming local artist Chelsea Graham completed the piece on Oct. 6. The mural is located at 200 W Holly St, right outside Third Planet. // Photo by Chelsea Graham 

By Mallory Kruml 

Third Planet Manager Erika Millage was ecstatic when 21-year-old artist Chelsea Graham came to her with a pitch for a colorful mural to be painted outside of the downtown business. 

The rainbow-colored geometric painting features white letters that read “diversity is our strength,” and fits Third Planet’s values of inclusivity and acceptance, Millage said. 

“It was awesome and I loved it, but it’s not my building,” Millage said, “I told Chelsea to reach out to Daylight Properties, our property management company, to get the mural approved.” 

Graham is a full-time tattoo apprentice at Enemy Tattoo in Everett, runs her own Etsy shop and aims to expand her artistic portfolio. 

The mural is Graham’s kickstarter for her new business venture Our Unity Project, a “local campaign and community-funded movement powered to advocate for local artists and businesses,” according to the GoFundMe.  

“The ‘unity committee’ is a group of artists from [Our Unity Project],” Graham said. “We got a list together of what Bellingham values line up with Unity’s after chatting with a few Bellingham businesses and went from there.” 

Graham chose diversity as the focus of the group’s first mural but looked to the community for input on the design. 

“I took everyone’s opinions into consideration,” said Graham, who mocked up a few variations of the design in ProCreate, a digital illustration app. 

After reaching out to Daylight Properties in July, Graham was asked to provide proof of funding before the project was approved. 

Graham began heavily promoting Unity’s Instagram, which includes a GoFundMe for art supplies and donations to a select group of community organizations that align with Unity’s values and aspirations.  

Daylight Properties slightly tweaked and approved the final design after noting Graham’s increase in local support and available community funding. 

“We started painting on a Saturday and finished late Tuesday night of the first week of October,” Graham said. 

Completing the mural took Graham, along with her boyfriend’s assistance, approximately 40 hours.

“Chelsea was incredibly professional,” Millage said. “I’m just so appreciative that she was so passionate and wanted to create art in our community.” 

The process included cleaning the wall and using colored paint mixed with primer and a protective coat. 

Cinnamon Berg, chef and owner of Cosmos Bistro in Bellingham, first saw the mural on Facebook. 

“I think it’s a great reminder for us that we’re all different, and that it’s a beautiful thing to have diversity,” Berg said. “When I see art in a random place like on the side of a building, I’m reminded that art makes you happy.” 

Graham said that while diversity is not Bellingham’s strong suit, she wanted to show that the community has the potential to change weaknesses into strengths. 

Shannon Taysi, the city’s program manager, spoke on behalf of the Arts Commission and noted the value of community art.

“It brings art into a public realm where maybe not everyone’s exposed to it on their day-to-day basis, or has the luxury to go explore it in some other fashion,” Taysi said. “It makes it really accessible to the public.”

Graham looks forward to future murals featuring local artists with a focus on Bellingham values.

A new Unity mural, located at 3 OMS Yoga, will be painted the weekend of Nov. 20, and will read, “not perfect, just growing.”   

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