Something colorful is coming to South Whidbey, and the community’s artistic help is needed.
Jeremy Jarvis, an artist from Columbus, Ohio, has begun work on a 70-by-38-foot mural on the courtyard wall of the South Whidbey Community Center in Langley.
The historic building the mural is being painted upon was home to the cafeteria and gymnasium when the community center was known as the Langley Middle School.
Earlier this year, Langley Creates, the city’s creative district program, commissioned the mural and sent out a call for artists.
Gail LaVassar, the executive director for the community center, said there were 41 artists from all over the U.S. who applied.
Jarvis was selected by a community jury made up of stakeholders such as community center partners, gallery owners and school district staff members.
The project received a grant totaling $13,000 from the Washington State Arts Commission. Community members raised a matching $13,000.
The design of the mural depicts a young boy and girl reaching upward to hold the stem of a dahlia. Jarvis used his own 5-year-old son, Blake, as a model for the boy. The model for the girl is the daughter of one of his friends.
“Kids are great,” Jarvis said. “They represent the future, they represent youth, they represent hope.”
The flower they are grasping, he explained, has a special significance. In his design narrative, Jarvis indicated that a dahlia flower symbolizes “inner strength, creativity, change and dignity.”
He believes his design was chosen for its positive and inspirational message.
“I knew that I wanted it to be something that was on the positive side,” Jarvis said. “I didn’t want it to be anything that was too concrete, I wanted there to be a lot of interpretation to it. I felt like I wanted to have some people in it and I wanted those people to be working together towards something or having a similar vision.”
Jarvis arrived on Whidbey Island June 6. He has until the end of the month to complete the mural, which is just now entering its painting phase.
He is joined in his work by Max Cole-Takanikos, one of the finalists for the mural artist selection process who was chosen to be the apprentice of Jarvis for the project.
Cole-Takanikos, a South Whidbey High School 2009 grad, attended Langley Middle School when it was open.
In the past, he has worked on a mural for Flying Bear Farm on First Street in downtown Langley and assisted with a mural in Brooklyn.
“It’s been a lot of fun so far, getting to work with another artist,” he said about his collaboration with Jarvis.
Last week, Jarvis traced the projected image of the design on the wall, working by night while still feeling jet lagged. He and Cole-Takanikos began work at 9:30 p.m. and finished around 4:30 a.m. each day.
“I basically pulled three all-nighters to get the drawing done,” Jarvis said. “That was a bit difficult.”
Another challenge has been the rainy weather, which has delayed painting. Jarvis said he built in about five “bad weather days” to his schedule, three or four of which he has used up already.
Even with these obstacles, he is confident he will be able to finish the mural in time.
Community members will be able to help complete the mural by registering for a “community paint day” this Saturday, June 19. The event runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. but only 22 people will be able to sign up per hour, in order to meet COVID-19 social distancing guidelines.
Locals are invited to paint the lower section of the mural, which includes a “Langley-scape” of mountains, trees and Puget Sound.
Jarvis said he had been looking for a way to get the youngest members of South Whidbey involved in the project.
“This could be around for a hundred years, you never know,” he said. “If it is, that’s pretty cool that they can tell their grandkids, ‘Hey, I worked on that mural.’”
An additional day of painting will be held Monday, June 21, but just for kids.