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Renovated mural breathes new life into Commercial Street Plaza

WWU alum designed mural, beer label for downtown renewal

Western Washington University alum Annabelle Barrett designed and painted a new mural in the Commercial Street Plaza as part of an effort by the Downtown Bellingham Partnership to revitalize the area.
Western Washington University alum Annabelle Barrett designed and painted a new mural in the Commercial Street Plaza as part of an effort by the Downtown Bellingham Partnership to revitalize the area.
By David Nuñez News Intern

A new bright and bold mural alongside the Commercial Street Plaza in downtown Bellingham is a symbol of revitalization.  

Downtown Bellingham Partnership (DBP), a nonprofit that focuses on furthering the vibrancy and growth of the downtown district, headed the effort. Funding for the DBP comes from a tax incentive through Washington State’s Main Street program and City of Bellingham work contracts and grants, including a recently awarded Small and Simple Grant.

The mural, partially funded by the Small and Simple grant, was designed by Annabelle Barrett, a Western Washington University alum and graphic designer. Barrett previously designed two art murals at the plaza and considers herself a self-taught muralist.

“Using Procreate on my iPad, I drew the initial draft onto the photos [of the plaza] so you can actually see it on the space,” Barrett said. “My favorite part of doing murals is when I get volunteers from the community — then [the mural] becomes theirs as much as it is mine.  

photo  Freshly painted berries and leaves cover a column of the Commercial Street parking garage. (Hailey Hoffman/Cascadia Daily News)  

Community involvement is what Downtown Bellingham Partnership strives to achieve in its work. Lindsey Payne Johnstone, program director for the partnership, said fresh artwork reactivates and reenergizes the Commercial Street Plaza and is part of a larger vision for the rest of the plaza, located adjacent to the city’s parking garage. 

“We have some bigger visions down the road to add artworks to bigger elements like the spiral that takes you to different levels of the parking garage, exit and entrance ramps,” Payne Johnstone said.  

Payne Johnstone added that the partnership is combining artwork, food and drink to get the public to use the plaza in between mural projects, including holding a weekly lunch series with local vendors to make the space active and raise funds.   

Jenny Hagemann, marketing and communication manager for the DBP, said a long list of projects is bigger than the group’s funding, so they collaborate with local brewers through the BKIND Brews project. BKIND launched in 2016 in response to antisemitic graffiti and window-breaking. The breweries who partner with BKIND — Aslan Brewing Co., Structures Brewing and others — help make the partnership’s ideas reality.

photo  Ferns on pink and orange slabs cover the entrance to the public restrooms. Annabelle Barrett also designed an Aslan Brewing Co. beer label to accompany the new mural. (Hailey Hoffman/Cascadia Daily News)  

Prior to joining the partnership, Hagemann operated a cider house downtown, so working with brewers was natural for her.  

“I wanted to take my craft beverage roots, the partnerships and relationships that I personally made, to my new work,” Hagemann said. “Over time we will likely have a BKIND brew with each [of the BKIND breweries] with a portion of proceeds going towards our design projects.” 

The first BKIND brew party will be at 6 p.m. Friday, July 7, at Aslan Depot, and will feature a specially crafted brew by Aslan Brewing Company. The label was designed by Barrett. 

A sale of Gallery Alley doors — reclaimed doors painted on both sides by local artists on public display in the alley between The Wild Buffalo and Mindport Exhibits on Holly Street — and live upbeat jazz will close out the night. 

For more details about Downtown Bellingham Partnership events, go to

This story was updated at 11:21 a.m. Thursday, July 6, to clarify funding sources for Downtown Bellingham Partnership. 

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