A new mural of caring arms at South Lynnwood Park kicks off $2.5 million in park renovations.
Local artist Gabrielle Abbott painted “Grateful Steward” last year, but she’ll be talking about her work via Zoom on April 22 for Earth Day.
“Grateful Steward” takes inspiration from Native Americans who see themselves as stewards of the land. The mural is meant to inspire us to care for the Earth. It features plants and animals native to the Lynnwood area.
“It’s absolutely beautiful; it’s beyond my expectations,” said Fred Wong, Lynnwood’s community program coordinator. “I’ve heard nothing but amazing things about it from those who have seen it. Everybody loves it.”
Abbott, 34, is a Seattle-based muralist who also works with sidewalk chalk and oils. The award-winning artist practices social awareness, community engagement and equitable representation in her work.
In addition to the mural, renovations to the South Lynnwood Park off 208th Street and 61st Avenue W. will include a turf soccer field, sheltered picnic area and accessibility improvements.
The mural is painted on the back of the upgraded restroom building of the 4.2-acre park. It is 17 feet tall and 37 feet wide.
Arms that are larger than life stretch out over a mandala made up of the elements of nature — earth, water, wind and fire — and are filled with plants and surrounded by animals indigenous to Lynnwood. The arms represent our responsibility as stewards of the land.
“Our impact as humans is really big,” Abbott said. “Either positive or negative, we have the power to be really impactful on the Earth. We might have this big impact, but we are also intricately connected to the plants and animals that make up the Earth.”
The Lynnwood Arts Commission put out a call to artists to paint a mural with a nature theme. Out of about 40 applicants, Abbott was hired for the project.
“We loved her artwork and her ideas for the project, so she was the one,” Wong said. “Her murals are very joyful, very colorful, very beautiful. They have a sense of community and are very respectful to the subject matter.”
As part of the project, Abbott met with fifth graders at College Place Elementary School in Lynnwood to teach them about murals featuring indigenous plants and animals.
Wong said the plan was for Abbott to incorporate their designs into the mural and have the fifth graders paint it with her at South Lynnwood Park. But because of COVID-19, Abbott painted it by herself.
Along with College Place kids, Abbott collaborated with Snohomish Tribe of Indians chairman Michael Evans and Edmonds College visual arts students on the project.
“I interviewed Michael Evans about the traditional relationship to the land that the First Nations people had in the area,” she said. “That was a really cool conversation that really inspired the direction of the artwork.”
Abbot asked Edmonds College students to research the plants and animals that were important to the tribes so she could highlight them in the mural.
Fifty-four species are represented in Abbott’s work, including the river otter, snowberry, bald eagle, foxglove, wild rose, Anna’s hummingbird, trillium, northern spotted owl, red-flowering currant, coho salmon, maidenhair fern, Douglas fir trees and the lupine blue butterfly.
She said she also was inspired by the book “Braiding Sweetgrass” by Robin Wall Kimmerer, a Ph.D. botanist and tribal elder.
“It’s really a great honor to have that responsibility, and it’s one we should be taking seriously,” Abbott said. “That’s where the title comes from — we should be grateful for the opportunity to steward land in a healthy way.”
Abbott holds a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts from Antioch University in Seattle and a master’s degree in fine arts from the University of the Arts in London.
“I am a three-time art school drop out,” said Abbott, who now teaches art at Antioch University and Seattle Public Schools. “I’ve always wanted to be an artist. I just took a really long, meandering route through college and tried a lot of different forms of art.”
Abbott has painted about 10 murals in Washington, including “Heritage” at Skagit Valley College’s Oak Harbor campus on Whidbey Island, a memorial wall at New Horizons Ministry in Seattle and a Seattle history mural at Seattle’s Garfield High School, her alma mater.
“Right now, I’m really focused on healing the Earth,” she said. “That’s a big value of mine. So raising awareness of ecosystem health and permaculture and indigenous knowledge — recentering that conversation feels really important.”
It took Abbott about 10 months and 12 quarts of house paint to finish the mural.
Wong said Abbott’s “Grateful Steward” is the first mural in Lynnwood commissioned by the city. One percent of the South Lynnwood Park renovations costs is allocated to artwork.
If you can’t make it to the city’s “Meet Artist Gabrielle Abbott” talk, Wong made a short video about the mural project at South Lynnwood Park. Watch the video on YouTube.
If you stream
Gabrielle Abbott will talk about her mural at South Lynnwood Park in a virtual event hosted by the city of Lynnwood. “Meet Artist Gabrielle Abbott” is scheduled for 6 p.m. April 22 via Zoom. The city’s Fred Wong will serve as moderator for the talk. Find the Zoom link for the event at www.lynnwoodwa.gov. Call 425-670-5502 or email email@example.com for more information.