Arlington’s Art Walk celebrates our natural and cultural history — how it all started
"Earth without art is just... eh" -Demetri Martin, quoted by Sarah Arney
Arlington’s Art Walk celebrates our natural and cultural history — how it all started. By Sarah Arney March 2023
Arlington’s public art collection was launched in 2003 when the city’s then Mayor Margaret Larson offered $10,000 seed money for art to honor the city’s Centennial; she delegated a group of artists and art advocates to select the appropriate art for the occasion.
That group immediately started working on a fun community art project for the occasion: they cut cows out of 4-by-8-feet sheets of plywood and sold them at cost to community members and organizations to paint, resulting in more than 100 creative plywood cows that were installed in the pasture along I-5 just south of the Arlington exit 208 during the Centennial year.
A few years later, the Arts Council provided plywood fish for people to paint, and we put 300 fish in the field and around town. The plywood fish continue to swim around Arlington to this day.
The group of art advocates also planned an auction of art donated by Arlington artists to double the art budget from $10,000 to $20,000; that group of artists and art advocates evolved to form the Arlington Arts Council, establishing a 501c3 nonprofit organization in 2004.
The first acquisitions for the Centennial set the stage for an ongoing celebration of Arlington’s cultural and natural history. The city’s money was used to commission local mural painter Harry Engstrom to paint the retaining wall on Olympic Hill at the south end of downtown. In “Species of the Westside,” Harry depicted the plants and animals that live from the shoreline of the Pacific Coast to the crest of the Cascade Mountains. Twenty years later, that mural remains a popular favorite and is southern most point of the Arlington Art Walk, which stretches from the top of the hill to the Stillaguamish River, about a mile through the heart of historic downtown Arlington. The other mural across the street at the top of the hill, “Streamlife of the Stilly,” was painted by Harry several years later.
Verena Schwippert (also an Arlington resident), was also commissioned, to create a stone sculpture for the city’s Centennial. She carved the Salmon Spawning Pool, providing an aesthetic resting spot along the trail near SR 530, just three blocks from the Stillaguamish River. Verena points out that her granite sculptures have a life span of 60,000 years. Her works will certainly “live on and define us as a people.”
Because the former railroad track in town was being developed by Snohomish County into the 28-mile long multi-purpose recreational Centennial Trail (named for the state centennial in 1989) and because the city of Arlington was proactive in developing its section of trail through the center of town, the trail provided an ideal location for public art works. We started with an invitational sculpture walk featuring friends of local artist Verena Schwippert and members of the Northwest Stone Sculptor Association.
And that’s not all!
Also for the city’s Centennial Celebration, the Stillaguamish Valley School for homeschool families offered the very large mural, “Run of Engine No. 1,” celebrating the city’s railroad history; it was designed by SVS teacher Sher Willoughby and painted by Harry Engstrom who was at the time teaching a mural painting class at the school. His students climbed up on the scaffolding and helped paint the mural. To top that off, Harry was hired by the city’s Parks, Arts, and Recreation Commission to paint a scene honoring our agriculture history: “Stilly Valley Victorian,” on the back of the bowling alley. Both of these murals face the trail, setting the stage for a grand celebration of Arlington’s cultural and natural history on the Arlington Art Walk.
Finally for the Centennial, the Arlington Masons topped off the art effort by coordinating the Time Capsule, featuring a milk can atop a concrete tree stump that was placed in Legion Park, honoring our dairy and logging history, it was created by Jason Leatherman at Cuz Concrete with some artistic flourishes by local glass artist Kurt McVay.
The Arlington Arts Council continued adding art in town for the next two decades.
In 2019, the city of Arlington adopted an ordinance, designating 10 percent of construction sales tax to raise more money for art in Arlington. The Arts Council continues to advise the city on art all around town, making proposals each year for funding by the city. Thanks to the city’s funding of the arts, the AAC was able to stop the arduous task of planning and presenting an art auction each year — although some say they miss the fun party celebrating the arts in Arlington.
Arlington Art Walk
From the top of Olympic Hill to the Stillaguamish River
#1 — “Species of the Westside,” a 300-foot mural by Harry Engstrom, 2004.
#2 — “Stream life on the Stilly,” portrays fun activities on the river, by Harry Engstrom, 2008
#3 — “Waterline,” large granite stones depicting the impact of the river, by Verena Schwippert.
#4 — Labyrinth stone path designed by Sarah Lopez, installed by community volunteers on the hottest day of the year, and surrounded by a ring of Sunset maples paid for by community members.
#5 — Wind chime bell by Steve Bryant hangs on a structure designed and built by Sarah Lopez and Fred Arnold.
#6 — The Sound Garden features three outdoor instruments (drums, bells and xylophone) designed by Grammy winner Richard Cooke, with a backdrop featuring a painting of folk musicians by an AAC member, the late Jim Walker.
#7 — Kent Baker’s Bench by Lance Carleton honors the photographer who mentored many.
#8 — Eagle weathervane and art glass by Kurt McVay on top of the Gazebo
#9 — The 2003 Time Capsule featuring a stainless steel milk can atop a concrete tree stump honors the city’s logging and dairy history, It was created for the city’s Centennial by Cuz Concrete and paid for by Arlington Masons and will be opened in 100 years, 2103.
#10 — “Flat Tire,” metal sculpture by Lance Carleton
#11 — Barn Quilt Square designed by Sarah Lopez for the Barn Quilt Tour on back of The Depot/Visitor Information Center
#12 — Three fence murals by Erika Bruss & friends feature a bee on a rose, an owl, and an orca, in the fence north of The Depot.
#13 — “Embraced by Love,” a mosaic globe of rainbow colors donated to the city by the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in honor of the church’s centennial, was rebuilt by Shannon Danks and placed in the landscape along the trail behind the Arlington Police Station; Nearby, a Mini-Gallery provides an opportunity to share small art works: take one and leave one, similar to Little Libraries.
#14 — “Rooted Embrace,” a large metal sculpture of a tree by Debbi Rhodes honors the city’s status as a Tree City USA.
#15 — “Run of No. 1” mural of the Monte Cristo railroad, designed by Sher Willoughby and painted by Harry Engstrom and students at Stillaguamish Valley School for the city’s Centennial.
#16 — “Transporting through Arlington,” a mural on the muffler shop faces the trail and Fourth Street was designed by youth from the Denny Youth Justice Center under guidance by adult artist mentors. PAINTED OVER IN JANUARY 2023)
#17 — “Rock Cradled,” metal and stone sculpture by Dan Freeman.
#18 — “Dedicated to the Beauty of Earth,” basalt stone sculpture with runes by Verena Schwippert.
#19 — “Grandfather,” stainless steel sculpture of a bear honoring Oso, by James Madison, a Tulalip Tribes member.
#20 — “Stilly Valley Victorian,” farmhouse mural by Harry Engstrom, on the back of the bowling alley was funded by the city’s Parks, Arts and Recreation Commission (PARC) for the city’s Centennial.
#21 — “Raven captures the Sun,” stainless steel metal sculpture by James Madison.
#22 — Mosaic mile markers by Rene O’Connor show how far Arlington’s trail users are from the Skagit County line.
#23 — Raven chainsaw carving by Jacob Lucas, at the bench north of Division Street.
#24 — “Salmon Spawning Pool,” 3-piece granite sculpture by Verena Schwippert for the Centennial.
#25 — “Working through History,” Reclaiming Futures mural on old Public Works building designed by Jillian Mattison and painted by youth from the Denny Youth Justice Center in Everett with adult mentors (this building is scheduled for demolition).
#26 — Peace Plaza at the southeast corner of Haller and West avenues, features an obelisk created by Cuz Concrete, coated with cast glass by Gerry Newcomb and a retaining wall bench with mosaic by Seattle Mosaic Arts.
#27 -- “Sir Hops A lot,” granite sculpture of a frog by B.C. artist George Pratt at the Spray Park.
#28 — “Going to Ride,” mural design by Janet Myer and painted by Arlington Arts Council members on the pedestal under the Centennial Trail’s former railroad bridge.
#29 — “Duck Dash,” painting by Jack Gunter hangs on the utility shed next to the Spray Park.
#30 — “Fishing the Stillaguamish,” metal sculpture of an osprey by Dan Brown, sits atop the railroad bridge.
North of the river
Since the northern boundary for the city of Arlington is defined by the Stillaguamish River, two sculptures north of the river were provided by Snohomish County:
• “Resilience” is a stainless steel arch by Joe Powers that defines the intersection of the Whitehorse Trail with the Centennial Trail.
• “Reverence” by Carolyn Sumpter features 18 doves as a memorial to the county’s veterans who died in the War on Terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Back through town
The Art Walk continues back down Olympic Avenue, starting at Centennial Park on Division Street. This park was created to honor the state’s Centennial in 1989 under the direction of Margaret Larson, wife of then-Mayor John Larson. Local ceramic artist Charles Bigger was selected to create a fountain that was paid for by donors identified on 100s of bricks. Centennial Park also includes a wall of tiles featuring characteristics of Washington state, painted by Arlington fourth graders.
On the way back to Olympic Avenue, notice the chainsaw carving Two Eagles and a Bear by Dave Tremko in the roundabout at Division and Broadway, and don’t miss the chance for a chuckle when you see the red, orange and yellow “Leaping Bunnies” sculpture designed by Sarah Arney. (Hint: they are hiding in the bushes on Division Street, just east of Olympic Avenue.) There is another chainsaw carving, the Coy Eagle by Debbi Tremko, in the roundabout at West Street. Debbi and Dave started the chainsaw carving event for Arlington’s Stillaguamish Eagle Festival.
Heading south on Olympic Avenue, note the large mural on the south wall of Coastal Community Bank. “Olympic Avenue in the 1940s” by Harry Engstrom and his son Erik Engstrom was commissioned by the bank in 2020.
Continuing south, another large mural painted in August 2022, on the south side of Jim Minifie’s building on Olympic Avenue at 5th Street, “The South Fork” by Andy Eccleshall depicts the south fork of the Stillaguamish River as it approaches the confluence of the two rivers, birthplace of Arlington.
Lori Angdahl painted the Photo Op Wings next to the bowling alley, 2021.
At Fourth Street, look up on the top of the gazebo at the Innovation Center to see Mike Nordine’s dragon, and while continuing down Olympic Avenue, keep your eyes out for creative bike racks designed and created by Arlington High School shop students. In the 300 block of Olympic Avenue, stop in the parking lot to see four quilt blocks designed by Sarah Lopez and painted by Arts Council members Jean Olson, Marilyn Oertle, Sarah Lopez, Sheila Arnold and Sarah Arney.
At City Hall, another cluster of impressive art works speak to our cultural and natural history:
• “Council of Salmon,” anatomically correct ceramic salmon by Marguerite Goff facing the City Hall Plaza, celebrates the river as a source of food through the millennia;
• “Center of the Universe,” a basalt column by Kirk McLean depicts the geography around Arlington, including Wheeler, Higgins and Frailey mountains and the confluence of the north and south forks of the Stillaguamish River, birthplace of Arlington;
• Mayor Margaret’s Eagle, metal sculpture by Bill Matheson, hovers over the entrance to the City Council Chambers;
• “Rip Rap,” a stone and metal sculpture by Reg Akright memorializes George Boulton’s role as a builder of community on the river and a florist, in a flower garden provided by Arlington Kiwanis Club and Dollars for Scholars — two of George’s passions.
More on Olympic Avenue
On down the street, note the Dancing Bears designed by Monica Bretherton, and installed at the entry to the City Parking Lot in 2021, then continue past the Centennial Time Capsule, coordinated by the Mason and created by Jason Leatherman at Cuz Concrete, with glass details by Kurt McVay. (The time capsule will be opened in 2103). Pop back into Legion Park to see the Mini Electric City by Janet Myer and Don Morley, right next to the stage that was designed and built by a group of Arlington tradesmen, carpenters, builders and concrete workers, just across the lawn from the gazebo with an eagle weathervane atop art glass by Kurt McVay. Also in the park, there is a bench by Lance Carleton featuring a photograph of Kent Baker’s favorite place.
Take a rest at the “Silent Hunter,” wood bench carved by Jacob Lucas at First Street… and then see one more Harry Engstrom mural, “Dairy Queens,” hanging in the southern entry to the Cenex Farm and Garden Store, at 102 South Olympic Avenue.
As time went by, the arts council decided it was time to put art in other places around town, such as Terrace Park. AAC recruited Erika Bruss and Kristina Yantis to paint bird murals, especially the striking owl on the side of the public restroom and other birds on the picnic shelters. The Arts Council also engraved prize winning haiku poems in stones and on bench boards for the park. The haiku are from the annual haiku contest at Arlington’s Stillaguamish Eagle Festival.
At the Arlington Library, the Arts Council installed a Jacob Lucas carving of owls tucked into a stump, since the Friends of the Library logo is an owl and the Friends hired AAC member Erika Bruss to paint a mural on their shed.
Art around town
In 2019, the city of Arlington passed an ordinance to fund public art using 10 percent of construction sales tax. With the boom in construction and development in recent years, the fund has paid for more art all around town. The ordinance specified the goal to put art in Smokey Point and other locations in the city. The city accepts proposals each year at budget time that are reviewed by the Public Art Committee.
The city commissioned Debi Tucker to paint a mural at the new Community Garden at Third Street and French Avenue and a creative gate by Carolyn Sumpter.
• Mosaic Birds (owl, crow, robin, swift, flicker) by Renee O’Connor in the 67th Avenue retaining wall north of 211th Street. This project revealed a growing appreciation of the city’s art collection when Public Works Director James Kelly budgeted for art in the street renovation.
• “Steelies” features five fish sculptures created by AAC members Monica Bretherton, Erika Bruss, Tim Johnson and Mike Nordine who mentored the artists in welding, for the 67th Avenue median between of 204th and 188th streets.
• A shed at the Arlington Cemetery features a Garden Mural by Shiela Arnold.
• Golden Tractor in the 204th Street Roundabout, honors the industry of dairy farms of Kent Prairie and Arlington in general.
• The Fish Pole marks the salmon-bearing stream, Prairie Creek in Kent Prairie, with fish signs marking all the salmon-bearing streams in town.
• Cascade Stone benches (“Ottoman” and “Pause” ) by Verena Schwippert on the Arlington Valley Road through the city’s Industrial Zone.
• “Eagles Come Home” metal sculpture by Carolyn Sumpter at the 67th Avenue entrance to Gleneagle Community.
• Josh Robinson and friends painted murals on the Skate Park, 2021 and 2022.
• “Ball of Fun” by Lin McJunkin and Milo White at Quake Park ball fields, 188th Street and 59th Avenue, 2021.
At Arlington Airport
• AeroVane, an airplane mobile by Wayne Kangass, of Whidbey Island, moves in the wind near the Airport Office, installed in 2021.
• On Airport Boulevard, “Go with the Flow” by Verena Schwippert and Ruth Mueseler is located near 173rd Street, and two metal airplane benches provide a spot to rest near the new fire station and along the Airport Trail.
• Jack Gunter’s Airport Traffic Jam of flying machines hangs inside the Airport office.
In Smokey Point
• “Tenses of Time” by Julie Berger is located at Community Transit Center, a project of Community Transit of Snohomish County.
• “Wonderland” is a creative bench by Lance Carleton at the Stilly Valley Center bus stop.
• Hand-painted wooden benches at bus stops on Smokey Point Blvd by Monica Bretherton and Sarah Arney
• Bird bench and Banners honoring Flight by Pilar Dowell will be placed on the new 173rd Street during 2023.
Kathy Glowen’s “Overhead, Underfoot” features four resilient Northwest native plants — Bleeding Heart, Salmonberry, Staghorn Sumac and Columbine — hanging high above in City Council Chambers;
The Public Works meeting room features a painting of the North Fork by Vicki Johnson and four mountain images by Christina Harvey;
Cascade Valley Hospital contains an expansion collection of art by regional artists, including a large glass window by Jack Archibald of Camano Island, several collages by Kathy Glowen, a mural of the Stillaguamish Valley below Mt. Higgins by Harry Engstrom, a stone sculpture, “Pilchuck,” by Verena Schwippert and many more.
Erika Bruss’s student project, “Starry Starry Night” hangs in the upstairs lobby at City Hall, with photos by Sarah Arney in the conference room.
Jack Gunter’s “Mukilteo Traffic Jam” hangs at the Airport Office and a tribute to firefighters by Arlene Swartz hangs in the fire station.
Light pole banners all over town — the banners that hang on light poles around town were painted in several years by local artists and have been reproduced through the years with new ones by Vicki Johnson and Monica Schriver commissioned by the city for the winter season. The first round of banners were painted on the banner canvases in rooms at Haller Middle School provided by the school district before the school was operational. The artists had fun painting their canvases together. In subsequent years, the artists worked at home on smaller canvases and the images were reproduced on vinyl.
The city’s Welcome to Arlington entryway signs are also a significant feather in our cap. The community had been dreaming about entry signs for many years, but it just never got done, so the Arlington Arts Council decided to start the ball rolling by designing a prototype. Sarah Arney suggested a concept, to design a hill similar in shape to Ebey Mountain that hovers behind Arlington. She recruited Marguerite Goff to help tweak the shape of the hill as a backdrop for several of Marguerite’s ceramic fish, and asked Lance Carleton to help by designing and hand-cutting lettering, resulting in the first entry sign that welcomes visitors who arrive from I-5 Exit 208, in Island Crossing, the traditional main entry to Arlington and the Stillaguamish River Valley.
The concept was to use the same shape, which was fabricated by Cuz Concrete, with a different art element for each entry.
After the prototype was established, the city applied for funding from Snohomish County Tourism Grants and from its own tourism grant program, and the arts council took the lead in selecting art for each sign.
Entering Arlington from the east on SR 530, the the entry sign features a metal heron by Shinobu Kawaoka.
The SR 9 signs from north and south both feature designs by Carolyn Sumpter, with a horse and barn greeting arrivers from the north, and a deer greeting those from the south. That sign was placed in the roundabout.
Smokey Point was the most problematic, with no real good location facing east bound traffic, so the sign was placed on the north side of 172nd Street, with a Native American style heron by Barry Herem and digitally-cut lettering.
Each entry sign is different, but they all speak to the Cultural and Natural History of this place.
In 2023, a sculpture, “Split Passage” by Karla Matzke will be installed at the new roundabout on 172nd Street and 41st Avenue.
Farm photographs by Kevin Krieg will be installed in two new bus stop shelters at Kent Prairie.
Two postcard murals will provide photo ops — one in downtown and another in Smokey Point bus stop.
Artistic wraps for power boxes in Smokey Point; colorful flower sculptures on Smokey Point Boulevard.