Mural Evolves on North Seattle College Campus

Heather Brammeier

The North Seattle College Mural Project (#nscmuralproject) is building community through art on the College campus. From an international call for entries for the design of a large outdoor mural, the College chose a design submitted by Heather Brammeier (pictured) of Peoria, Illinois. Students in ART 204: Mural Art, a new course taught by Instructor Kelda Martensen, are painting the mural during spring quarter 2014.

About the Design

"Licton Springs and the wetlands were the primary inspiration for the imagery,” explains Ms. Brammeier, instructor at Bradley University in Central Illinois. “Water is the connecting theme from panel to panel, and wetland grasses and evergreen trees are a recurring motif.”

She continues, “My personal approach to painting is biomorphic abstraction, which is based on natural forms. To unify the image and make it a personal expression, arcs and rounded forms that I would use in my paintings connect the panels visually. Though it is abstract, the design suggests strength, togetherness, interconnectedness and intellectual curiosity."

The Submission Process

When she saw the online call for entries, Brammeier was interested in the project because she says she loves the Seattle landscape, has artist friends here and has experience with murals. She brought her design ideas for the mural to her own classroom and allowed her students to learn about mural making along the way. She says, “Having talked about the project with students, it provided additional impetus for me to finish the entry.” The initial drawing for the mural took about six weeks. Once accepted based on the drawing, the full design took an additional six weeks.

Painting the Mural

Brammeier visited campus the week of April 14 to work with the North Seattle College students who will be artists on-the-ground with her design. She described to students her inspiration, different mural artists she researched, her color choices and her thought process in developing the design.

She was familiar with the Seattle landscape and referenced photographs of Licton Springs Park from the Municipal Archives. She also used her own photographs from personal visits, from a time when she was an artist-in-residence in Shelton and came up to Seattle, Tacoma and Olympia. Her photographs blended with those from the archive to help her hone her color palate – including burnt sienna, burnt umber, mossy green and butter yellow.

An important part of the design was the requirement to represent diversity, communicating the history of the area and different cultural heritages. Students in Kelda’s class shared with Heather that some of the (not selected) submissions had problems with cliché images. Heather’s design intentionally avoided that, blending clues to different cultures with her own abstract images. “To communicate the sense of a gathering place and a diverse community, I referenced Seattle’s Heritage Guide. Using the decorative arts and architectural forms, I incorporated hints of various cultures rather than overt symbols.”

The meeting with students involved lots of questions, and Heather reassured the art students that it was fine if the final product looks different from the original design. “There are so many decisions to make. I think students were relieved that I understood they would be incorporating their own hands into the project. It’s part of the contract. The art students will be adding in their own ideas, making changes. I am totally comfortable with that.”

Kelda Martensen, class instructor and the faculty member who has guided the development of the mural project, also has a lot of mural experience. She will be helping the students execute the design well, while allowing for individuation. Brammeier explains, “There will 16 different students participating in the mural painting, which means 16 different brush strokes and 16 different looks.” She suggested to students that each artist move around and work throughout the image, rather than on just one panel. That will unify the look of the final product. All panels will be painted simultaneously. “I expect there will be continuous revising as well,” she adds. “A lot of art involves revising, like writing. Changing things doesn’t mean it’s wrong. That’s just part of what artists do.”

Watch the Progress Online

As the mural develops, progress is being captured on a live webcam. The campus community and the public can follow the process online. Heather will put the link on her Bradley University Web page so that her own students can also follow the evolution of the mural from the Midwest.

For questions regarding the North Seattle College Mural Project, please email

Posted on: May 1st, 2014 at 14:15:15

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