Interview with Gina Wilson

A blank wall inspires art mural in Beaverton

Contributed by: Susan Gallacher Turner

Gina Wilson discussing her mural with unidentified gentleman.In the spring of 2007, Chuck Wilson said to his wife one day, “I’m tired of looking at a blank wall. Would you be willing to paint a mural there?” Gina Wilson, award-winning fine artist, replied, “Sure.”

By the next day, Wilson, Beaverton Sub Station owner, had called the mayor, the arts commission and the owner of the building with the blank wall, Ickabod’s Tavern. Everyone thought the idea was wonderful, but there was a catch.

“It turns out that murals were under the laws of signage at the time and only a certain percentage of a business could be in signage,” explains Gina Wilson. There was a way around the law, a variance permit, but it could cost up to $3,600. Although the mayor was willing to wave the variance, he suggested they wait. He wanted to change the law.

A year or so later, the law was changed designating murals as art instead of signage. The Beaverton Arts Commission formed a mural committee and Wilson submitted her design. Three months later, Gina was turning the blank wall on the back of Ickabod’s Tavern into an art mural for the City of Beaverton.

“Just me and my ladder,” said Gina. “There were a lot of people who were willing to help, but I’ve never made a mural that size before.” Gina learned on the job and it involved a lot more than just painting. “My husband power washed the wall. Bonnie, from Ickabod’s, painted the whole building so the surface was fresh paint for me. Once you have the idea, you grid it out and get it up there. Then, you kind of want to tweak the lines and move things a little bit here and there. The brown of the mural is actually the brown of the whole building. So although, I painted over the brown sometimes, because I’m moving lines around, most of the brown was already there, so it was really a matter of getting the lines in right and putting in the bits of color.”

Guests chatting about, and taking pictures of, the new mural.   Gina and Chuck Wilson with Mayor Doyle in front of her mural.   Gina Wilson adding a finishing touch to her mural.

The mural concept evolved out of Gina’s figurative abstract work as well as the site itself. The mural’s brown color reflected the color of the bank building next door. The four blue figures matched the number of the trees planted in front of the mural. The color purple, the only secondary color missing from the mural, will appear in the blooming bushes along the wall in the spring. “I looked at it as three different ways in which I dance with it. I’m really trying to make it interact with its environment,” Gina explained.

Decades ago, Gina and her husband Chuck, graduates of University of Illinois, packed up their truck and moved to Portland. Together, they’ve owned the Beaverton Sub Station, renovated an historic 1800 farmhouse and raised two daughters. “Mostly I’m enjoying life with my family, getting to know my children, helping Charles and working hard at my own craft and my own art,” Gina says.

Her art, family and community have come together before as you can see when you enter the deli. All along the side wall is a mural that started as a project for Gina’s two daughters and their friends, but now continues to evolve as customers come in and add pictures they’ve found. “It started about 12 years ago,” said Gina. “We’re still working on it and it’ll never end. It’s just fun and a real sense of community.”

The new mural for the city of Beaverton gave Gina another way to connect her art with her home town. “Anytime we interact in our community, we feel more like it belongs to us and that’s a really good feeling. I feel more involved and it’s empowering,” said Gina. “We really can change things. We thought we’d like a mural and in the process, laws got changed.”

The change that started with Chuck Wilson’s wish for a better view outside his window led to a beautiful new mural for the whole Beaverton community to enjoy. Gina hopes this means more art all around the city, “Hopefully there will be a lot more murals, now. I want to encourage people to work with the matching funds program and get other murals started.” Susan Gallacher-Turner is a local artist, writer and teacher. Susan’s sculpture work has been exhibited locally and around the Northwest including the 2009 Beaverton Arts Showcase. Her writing and interviews feature people living a creative life and can be read online on her blog, Susan’s Art & Words and Voices of Living Creatively.