South Lynnwood Park mural celebrates native plants, wildlife

Seattle artist Gabrielle Abbott painting her design, “Grateful Steward,” on the South Lynnwood Park restroom building.

As part of work to redevelop South Lynnwood Park, a Seattle artist has partnered with the community to paint a new mural that features plants and wildlife indigenous to the region while celebrating the South Lynnwood neighborhood’s cultural diversity.

The city has plans to revitalize the South Lynnwood neighborhood, which includes updating South Lynnwood Park. The mural — painted by artist Gabrielle Abbott — will be displayed on the restroom building.

Abbott was commissioned by the city to paint the mural after the city issued a regional call for artists. South Lynnwood is one of the city’s most diverse neighborhoods. According to Abbott, the city wanted an artist who had experience working with communities to create a piece reflecting that diversity.

“That was a key component that they were looking for in the artists who applied,” she said.

Abbott’s design, “Grateful Steward,” was inspired in part by the cultures of Indigenous people, who see themselves as stewards of the land. She said the mural features animals and plants that were part of the daily lives of Indigenous people. The mural also depicts hands made of plants, encircling a mandala, which Abbot said represent the four elements – earth, water, fire and air.

“It’s kind of representing that we’re part of nature ourselves, but also our role is to care for nature and that’s why (the hands are) holding it in a protective position,” she said.

Community members were going to help the artist paint the mural, but Abbott said the COVID-19 pandemic canceled those plans.

However, Abbott was able to meet with students from College Place Elementary School and Edmonds College prior to the outbreak. In January, she guest taught art lessons to fifth-grade students at College Place Elementary, where students offered their own ideas about what the mural should look like.

A complete rendering of “Grateful Steward” by Gabrielle Abbott. (Courtesy of the City of Lynnwood)

“I met with all the fifth graders and talked about what nature means to (them),” she said. “We did a little project and I gave them a picture of the wall to design.”

At Edmonds College, Abbott tasked students in an art appreciation course with researching plants that are native to Lynnwood and are special to Indigenous people, so they could be added to the design.

“I just got a whole range of ideas of medicinal plants and foods,” she said. “We also have animals, trees (and) berries.”

To learn about Indigenous people’s relationships with the land, Abbott said she reached out to an elder from the Snohomish Tribe and began reading about the role plants and botany play in both Indigenous and Western scientific traditions. 

For the past 10 years, Abbott participated in multiple community projects across the Pacific Northwest region, but this is her first effort in Snohomish County.

“It was exciting to get to connect to a new place and new community,” she said.

Abbott began painting the mural in mid-October and it is expected to be completed in early November.

South Lynnwood Park is a four-acre park built in 1978 and is located in one of the city’s most culturally diverse neighborhoods. Plans for the park include creating a community space for neighbors to gather by adding a picnic shelter, installing a new playground and updating the heavily used lawn. Other improvements include making ADA improvements to the pathways, improving drainage near the grass lawn and natural areas, installing a new bike station and resurfacing the tennis/multi-sport court.

Based on community feedback, a new urban soccer field will be added to the park, since city data shows soccer is the preferred pastime for many of the neighborhood’s residents.

Portions of the project are funded by the Trust for Public Land and Kaiser Permanente, a Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office grant and a Land and Water Conservation Fund grant.

Construction on the project was originally scheduled for this year, but Lynnwood Deputy Parks Director Sarah Olson said a key federal permit was delayed several months due to COVID-19 which put the city out of the construction season for the project.

Olson said the main construction package will go to bid in January with construction anticipated from April-October 2021.

“We are ready to go to bid and don’t anticipate any more delays,” she said.

–Story and photo by Cody Sexton

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