‘Mantra’ – bringing visibility to Burien through the Arts
by Shelli Park
Recently, the B-Town Beat had the opportunity to host the French artist, ‘Mantra.’
Mantra is a self-educated artist who hails from Metz, France. Sam Sneke, one of the organizers of the Beat, and the curator for the Art Alley, was contacted by Mantra prior to a visit to the States to see if there were any art opportunities here for him while he was in town. We were very excited to add international flair to the dynamic walls in the Alley! Mantra collaborated with Sneke on the southeast portion of the main art wall. In addition, Mantra created his own piece on the wall behind Burien Press.
I told John White about the new alley art and he was quick check out what was happening. He had recently had a conversation with Guy Harper, another Burien arts supporter, about putting a mural on the West wall of the building in Olde Burien occupying the Northwest corner of 152nd at Ambaum. The wall was seriously dilapidated and a sore subject for local businesses, particularly Phoenix Tea.
John shares: “I was stunned at the talent of this spray-can-man from France”
After seeing Mantra’s work, John knew that this was an amazing opportunity for the Olde Burien wall. Because Mantra had a limited time here in the States organizing the event had to happen quickly. John created what he calls a “decision stakeholder’s wheel” which included business owners situated close to the mural site. He divided the stakeholders into two categories, primary and secondary, and visited each about the impending project, including them in the decision- making process. The main stakeholders were contacted including the Burien Arts Commission and the building owner. Approval was given by both. John built the 16’ x 12’ plywood canvas at his home and hauled it up to the wall. All of this was accomplished in four days.
Roger Gee, of Yellow Van Handyman, generously donated his time and skills on Saturday (Aug. 30), to attach the giant canvas to the wall in anticipation of Mantra beginning the project.
The question remained: What would the subject be? Many ideas were entertained, but the defining moment came when John visited with Virginia Wright, owner of Phoenix Tea. Virginia suggested an Osprey as the subject. She said that she can sometimes see them flying over Olde Burien from the window of her shop as they hunt on Lake Burien.
Mantra was very pleased with the subject when it was shared with him, as he enjoys painting natural subjects. His website states: Mantra translates, in a contemporary way, the legacy of Parietal art. A sort of tribute to surrounding nature.
Mantra began to paint the mural early Sunday morning. The mural very quickly developed, drawing people to the site to watch the artist in action. Mantra completed the work in one day.
Since the completion of the mural, Phoenix Tea and Burien Food Mart have seen an increase in business as a direct result of the mural. This is but a small example of what the Arts can do for a community.
Mantra has a growing reputation in Europe. His work can be seen in Vienna, Paris, Annecy, Brussels, Luxembourg, Trier and Wiesbaden. He has participated in a number of European exhibitions and events. We are fortunate to have his work represented in not one, but three locations in Burien.
There is an opportunity to discuss the power that Arts and Culture can bring to Burien on Sept. 27 at the Economic Development Dialog, a community ideation session hosted by the city of Burien. I want to bring visibility to this very important element to Burien’s economic development action plan.
Not everyone connects with the Arts in a personal way, but everyone can benefit from the presence of Arts and Culture in Burien. It has a positive impact on the local economy. When a city invests in bringing Arts and Culture into play for economic development, everyone benefits.
Many studies have been done showing the power of the Arts on local economies, most notably by Americans for the Arts. Here is the link to download and read for yourself the incredible dollar amounts generated by having a strong Arts and Culture presence in a community:
It would be amazing to build on this momentum of new art in Burien to establish this as a city which draws cultural tourists and bring their wallets with them, supporting local businesses.