Whidbey Examiner


Scarecrow mural attracts swarms of shutterbugs

By ELISABETH MURRAY Whidbey Examiner Staff
October 18, 2012 · Updated 9:22 AM

An interactive mural now graces Front Street near the Coupeville Wharf courtesy of the Coupeville Historic Waterfront Association. The colorful mural, with scarecrows and sunflowers with spaces cut out for faces, invites visitors to pose for fun photographs. Mural artist Michele Kempees-Lewis, right, shows off the new artwork with the help of members of her family – Gretchen Thorn, far left, Megan Thorn and Tia Wurzrainer. / Elisabeth Murray

A 7-foot interactive mural recently appeared on Front Street – a new addition to complement Coupeville’s autumn celebrations.

The festive painting depicts two scarecrows standing by a fence surrounded by pumpkins, sunflowers, a black and gray tabby cat, and a “Welcome to Coupeville” sign.

The colorful wooden mural includes four oval cutouts for faces to pop through. Each scarecrow has one hole for a face, and two empty sunflowers close to the ground allow for young kids to easily peek out.

“It is designed for tourists – and residents, too – to take a fun picture,” said Chuck Poust, president of the Coupeville Historic Waterfront Association, which paid for the mural.

The mural was installed at the foot of the Coupeville Wharf on Oct. 2, and immediately two Australian visitors popped their heads through the ovals to have a picture taken.

Choosing an artist to design and create the cutout was an easy decision for the waterfront association, Poust said. Association members had said they wanted something similar to Captain Tack, the 6-foot tall sea captain (for which local resident Dick Tackett lent his features) which has stood for the past eight years on the deck on the east side of the Gillespie’s Livery building. Poust is the owner of the building, which houses his business, Windjammer Gallery.

Poust suggested to the group that they commission the artist that had made the seafaring figure, Coupeville artist Michele Kempees-Lewis, who also happens to have designed and painted just about all the commercial signs in the historic downtown.

Kempees-Lewis, who had owned an art shop where Front Street Realty now resides, originally had installed the captain to draw people to her store. When she vacated the space, she left the captain behind, much to the delight of the many visitors who stop to pose for a photo with the handsome seafarer.

And even though Kempees-Lewis’ business is no longer on Front Street, her passion for Coupeville and its small, locally owed businesses is evident. Much of the time she spent working on the project was donated.

“Front Street is family,” she said.

Kempees-Lewis puts a lot of work into the murals she paints. She created the design, transferred the sketch onto the board, cut the board and then completed the painting – a process that took about 60 hours to complete.

She said she didn’t want the harvest image to be as detailed as Captain Tack, but that she didn’t want it be too cartoonish, either. She envisioned it looking like an illustration from a children’s book.

“I didn’t want it to be scary,” Kempees-Lewis said. “I wanted it to be fun and whimsical.”

She achieved that look by painting in vivid, primary colors. The cat was added as a final touch to complete the piece.

Kempees-Lewis used professional acrylic paint for the project. While that medium costs more than other paint options, it will survive longer in the wind, rain and sun, she said.

And with her grandchildren in mind, she made sure that kids could easily reach the cutouts in the sunflower faces.

The mural is dog-friendly, too, she said, noting that pooches can easily peek through the holes – especially small ones being held by their owners.

The interactive mural will reappear each fall and complement the Coupeville Chamber of Commerce’s annual Scarecrow Corridor.

“We’re so happy with the end result,” Poust said.


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