Anacortes struck me as an easy-going and slightly quirky small city. It’s the sort of laid-back place where a brief stop can easily turn into a couple of hours as you stroll its downtown streets, pause for a leisurely coffee, pop into a shop or two.
Perched on the western edge of Fidalgo Island (which is not actually an island!), this is the jumping-off point for ferries to the San Juan Islands. But it’s worth a few hours at least of your time in its own right, as we found.
One feature of Anacortes is the Anacortes Murals Project, created by local artist Bill Mitchell. Over 150 images of local characters past and present adorn the buildings on and around the main street, Commercial Avenue.
Unusually they are not painted directly on to the buildings but on plywood. Although attached to the buildings they are owned by Mitchell. He has taken this step to ensure they can’t be painted over or destroyed; if a building’s owner no longer wanted to host a mural it could be detached and moved elsewhere.
As well as the locals depicted there is also a sprinkling of famous people (John Wayne and Marilyn Monroe outside the theatre, Andrew Carnegie outside the former library) and a few imaginary ones (such as a mermaid) and even animals (a gorilla who once lived in a zoo here). I even spotted a Bigfoot!
What I hadn’t realised at the time and have since discovered is that Bill Mitchell is a quadriplegic, having been paralysed as a teenager in a car accident on Whidbey Island, making his contribution to the recent revival of Anacortes’ downtown area all the more impressive. This selection of my favourite of his works is shared for this week’s Photographing Public Art challenge.
I visited Washington State in 2017