Gina Ribaudo works on a mural at the intersection of Colby and Pacific for the Imagine Children’s Museum in Everett, Washington on Thursday, May 9, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Gina Ribaudo works on a mural at the intersection of Colby and Pacific for the Imagine Children’s Museum in Everett, Washington on Thursday, May 9, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Downtown Everett mural brings wild animals, marine creatures to life

Pure chance connected artist Gina Ribaudo with the Imagine Children’s Museum. Her colorful new mural greets visitors on Colby Avenue.

EVERETT — For the past month, artist Gina Ribaudo has been hard at work painting scenes from land and sea onto the brick building at 1515 Pacific Ave.

The Imagine Children’s Museum, located around the corner, uses the building for storage.

A mural by Gina Ribaudo at the intersection of Colby and Pacific for the Imagine Children’s Museum in Everett, Washington on Thursday, May 9, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

A mural by Gina Ribaudo at the intersection of Colby and Pacific for the Imagine Children’s Museum in Everett, Washington on Thursday, May 9, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Someday, the old building may be torn down to make room for more parking, said Imagine Children’s Museum CEO Nancy Johnson. For now, though, she hopes the new murals will inspire people to visit the museum, which added a three-story, $25 million wing in 2022.

“Imagine is so reflective of Snohomish County and all the amazing things that exist here in our beautiful area,” she said.

The new art is an extension of that appreciation for local flora and fauna. Johnson called the building “a gateway into the city” — the first thing you see entering downtown Everett from the south on Colby Avenue.

A mural by Gina Ribaudo at the intersection of Colby and Pacific for the Imagine Children’s Museum in Everett, Washington on Thursday, May 9, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

A mural by Gina Ribaudo at the intersection of Colby and Pacific for the Imagine Children’s Museum in Everett, Washington on Thursday, May 9, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

On one side of the mural, a gray whale dives into Puget Sound. Nearby, two gray seals are caught mid-swim. One pokes its head out of the water, gazing at the viewer.

Other marine creatures dart around rocks and seaweed below the Port of Everett, rising up from the water in one corner of the mural. In the distance, the Cascade Range looms over it all.

The Olympic Mountains overlook a second mural depicting a forest surrounding a clearing with a fishing pond on another side of the building. When it’s finished, woodland animals will be part of the scenery too.

A mural by Gina Ribaudo at the intersection of Colby and Pacific for the Imagine Children’s Museum in Everett, Washington on Thursday, May 9, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

A mural by Gina Ribaudo at the intersection of Colby and Pacific for the Imagine Children’s Museum in Everett, Washington on Thursday, May 9, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Some elements of the paintings come directly from the museum at 1502 Wall St. The whale, for example, is based on an exhibit where kids can feel the bones of a real gray whale. The museum also has a gray whale replica.

“I always loved art when I was little,” Ribaudo said. For kids, art “opens their eyes to things that they didn’t even know were possible.”

Ribaudo plans to complete the mural this week.

The Arizona-based artist has been painting murals for Imagine for 15 to 20 years. Originally from the area, she has coordinated with the Everett museum to create art when she’s in town.

Gina Ribaudo works on a mural at the intersection of Colby and Pacific for the Imagine Children’s Museum in Everett, Washington on Thursday, May 9, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Gina Ribaudo works on a mural at the intersection of Colby and Pacific for the Imagine Children’s Museum in Everett, Washington on Thursday, May 9, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

A moment of pure chance sparked the partnership. One day, Johnson happened to be driving home from work behind Ribaudo’s van adorned with the name of her business and her phone number. Back then, the business was called I Love Murals, though Ribaudo has since changed the name to Ribaudo Art.

“She called me as I was driving and she’s like, ‘I’m behind you,’” Ribaudo recalled with a laugh.

Johnson remembers the moment too.

“I called her and explained that I wasn’t a stalker,” she said. She told Ribaudo she was looking for a mural.

The connection turned out to be lasting. Coming up with the subjects of the murals is a collaboration between the artist and her client. Museum staff explain their vision for the art, Ribaudo said, and she uses that to come up with the design. Sometimes, new ideas strike as she paints.

Ribaudo is “actually able to really listen to us as a client and really understand what it is we’re trying to accomplish with each of the murals,” Johnson said, calling the museum’s art “all very intentional.”

That includes the depictions of nature. Teaching kids about wild animals is one goal of the museum, Johnson said.

That means helping children understand “you have your domesticated animals that are your pets, like your dogs and cats,” she said. “But wild animals really need to live in nature. Their homes are there. And we need to respect those so that we can live together.”

Sophia Gates: 425-339-3035; sophia.gates@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @SophiaSGates.

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