When Evan Jones was first approached about a mural project in Queen Anne, his mind went toward something relatively quick and simple.
“My first idea was to do like these giant Georgia O’Keefe flowers,” he said, “because I thought I could just put huge flowers on the wall, and not spend eons of time doing it.”
But then he pulled back, and began to think about the audience he was serving, and the space he was given.
While he’s gravitated to large work in the past — in a literal sense, a Three Stooges mural in Fall City measures 24 feet wide and 12 feet high, while a Darigold mural in Issaquah stands 22 feet tall, and stretches almost 125 feet across — this project was a bit smaller.
All that needed painting was a single room underneath Sacred Heart Church (232 Warren Ave. N.).
The client? The Queen Anne Food Bank.
Now, once blank walls that surrounded the nearly 100 families a week that use the nonprofit community program are enveloped in color, thanks to nearly three weeks of work on Smith’s part.
It wasn’t a typical 9-to-5 workday either, with the room unavailable during service hours.
“One of the real subtle, massive perks in securing Evan for this project was his willingness and ability to work around our schedule,” said QAFB executive director Derek Wertz, “and so we never had to interrupt service because Evan was always so willing to work these wacky hours.”
Not that Jones minded to begin with.
“Once everybody’s gone, it’s quiet,” he said. “Open a window, and turn on the music and paint.”
Though the original concept for the murals was flowers, as the conversation evolved between Jones, Wertz, operations manager Emily Meade, and Lisa Barry, a QAFB volunteer and friend of Evan’s, food became a focal point.
For a program that distributed almost 250,000 pounds of food in 2015, it was a logical artistic jump to make.
And to an extent, the floral motif remained, with Jones painting a giant squash blossom on one wall, while a vine of raspberries covers another.
By adding that splash of color to the walls, Wertz said, it’s helped start dialogue and conversations with those using the food bank, especially those who may be shy, or even feel unwarranted shame from using the program.
“There was a side of the four of us that wanted to try to get people out of feeling like they’re coming into an institution,” Jones said. “In other words, blank walls, and here’s a box of food for you, see you later. Where these hopefully, when they come in, gets them out of that negative space where they feel like they have to, they feel shame, they feel guilt.”
While there are stigmas attached to food bank users, and assumptions that they must be either poor or homeless, Wertz said there are so many others, from veterans on a fixed income, to seniors, to single mothers fleeing domestic violence that need support.
“That’s one of the things we really work hard to do through this program,” he said, “is specifically dissolve stigmas, open, educate, and empower, and really do our best to help people feel as equal and respected as we all want to feel when we walk into any space.”
Art, he said, is a powerful way to achieve that.
“There’s scientific and there’s anecdotal research that goes back hundreds of years, that shows the power of the positive benefit of art,” Wertz said.
Thus far, Wertz said the response from customers has been very positive. But along with a lot of “wows,” there’s been plenty of “thank yous” as well. Receiving thanks wasn’t the aim of the project, he said, but when its genuine and unprovoked, it really means something.
“It really does feel good to know that you’re touching someone in a meaningful way,” Wertz said, “and perhaps just relieving for that one moment the worry of any of the other troubles they’re battling,”
Jones also said he didn’t do the job for the thanks. However, it is flattering, and more importantly, it indicates that the work explains itself.
“You realize that it worked,” he said. “You didn’t miss the mark and paint the wrong thing. Big Georgia O’Keefe flowers, for instance.”
For more information on the Queen Anne Food Bank, visit www.qafb.org. Wertz stressed that the nonprofit is always looking for more volunteers, and wished to thank both the community for its support, and Daly’s Paint & Decorating for their donation on the project. To learn more about Jones’s work, go to www.evanjonesartistry.com.