Beloved Native American murals at Wilson-Pacific may disappear

Seattle Public Schools wants to preserve the five large murals of Native Americans painted on the Wilson-Pacific campus, which is scheduled for demolition. But the artist says he no longer wants to give the district his permission.

Two side-by-side portraits of Chief Seattle and Chief Joseph can be seen for blocks around North Seattle’s Wilson-Pacific school, an aging set of buildings now used for offices and programs, including one that historically has served Native American students.

Painted in black, white and gray, the murals each soar 25 feet high, with Chief Seattle, in his older years, sitting in a chair looking off to one side, and Chief Joseph, in his prime, staring straight ahead.

Andrew Morrison, an artist who grew up in the Seattle area, painted the murals and three others on the Wilson-Pacific campus over a period of about seven years, populating the school’s dull, beige walls with images of friends, acquaintances and a Haida mythical figure along with the two iconic chiefs.

The murals have become a touchstone for the surrounding Licton Springs neighborhood and the Native American community in Seattle, which has strong ties to the area because of the Native American programs at the school and nearby Licton Springs, once a tribal gathering place.

Now the murals’ fate is in limbo, as Seattle Public Schools, with the passage of a capital levy earlier this month, plans to tear down Wilson-Pacific and replace it with two new schools.

District officials hope to preserve all five murals by taking digital photographs of them, then reproducing them at the new school buildings. They have asked for Morrison’s permission and offered to pay the costs and give Morrison a seat on the school’s design committee, which would decide where the reproductions would be placed.

(www.seattletimes.com)

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