Camas-Washougal volunteers pitch in after Little League mural vandalized

When graffiti taggers ruined a baseball-themed artwork in Washougal, community members stepped in to help

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Camas resident Kadie Frazier sits next to a mural she painted on an East County Little League equipment shed at Lower Hathaway Park, in Washougal, during the summer of 2022. (Contributed photos courtesy of Kadie Frazier)

On Thursday, May 17, East County Little League (ECLL) president Danielle Neumann received a text message from volunteer coach Micah Harpel that contained a photo and some distressing news about the league’s storage shed at Lower Hathaway Park. Harpel had discovered that at some point earlier that day or previous evening, vandalizers broke into the shed and tagged it with graffiti, ruining the baseball-themed mural on the side of the building.

Harpel immediately took charge of the situation, coordinating an effort to solicit the services of a local artist to give the shed a fresh coat of paint and some new artwork. Through social media, Harpel connected with Camas resident Kadie Frazier, who volunteered for the job and overcame a series of physical, mental and weather-related challenges to complete a new mural earlier this month.

“This is as much a story of community and volunteers coming together as anything,” Neumann said. “That day, there were a lot of things happening that were hard. Getting that initial picture sent to me from Micah was tough because it added one more hard thing that day. But (watching) him immediately take over and assume responsibility to make it right and better for our league, that honestly buoyed me. It was a good reminder that when we all contribute to a greater good, we lift each other up when we’re doing it.”

The new 9-foot-by-4-foot mural features a bright orange background, white squiggly lines, and several baseball/softball-themed items, outlined in black and hovering around a white cloud that contains the words, “Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.”

“I think it looks great,” Neumann said. “The work that Kadie did is something that I couldn’t have imagined. Obviously, it’s an old shed. But we wanted there to be a place where kids could see some beauty at the park and take pride in the things that we do have control over. There’s beauty everywhere, right? Hard things are going to happen, and we can take a minute to be upset or sad or whatever. But (we asked ourselves), ‘What can we do to fix things, or in this case, make them a little bit more beautiful?’ I love it.”

Neumann attributed the success of the project to Harpel’s quick, decisive actions, problem-solving skills and community-minded vision.

“Micah spearheaded (the project) and connected with the artist,” she said. “He really wanted to take ownership of it on behalf of the league. In terms of what would potentially have happened, I’m not sure how it would have gone without Micah’s leadership on it. It was midseason, a hectic time. I don’t know that we would have been able to take care of it as well in the short term as Micah did, leading us to Kadie. He wanted to find a way for an artist to engage and get some publicity and show their work. It just took on its own life.”

Frazier, a lifelong art enthusiast who specializes in lettering and modern calligraphy, was happy to join the cause.

“I have a fine art degree, and I was interested in taking a whack at painting a mural,” she said. “And when I was told about the size, I said, ‘You know, that would be a great starting thing to try.’ I’ve painted on things before, but not a mural, per se. I had never done it, but I knew that with my art background that I would be able to design a concept. So I commented, ‘I would be willing,’ and they asked me to send some work that I’ve done or what I was thinking of (for the new mural). I sent just a mock-up of something, and they really liked it.”

Frazier was inspired by a variety of sources.

“I knew I wanted to have some sort of sports-slash-baseball-softball theme,” she said. “The little league colors are vibrant orange and black with some other accents, so I wanted to work with (those). I knew I wanted some words on this mural design, so I found that quote by Babe Ruth, and I was like, ‘You know what, that’s it.'”

Neumann said that the quote is “really inspirational and speaks to what we’re trying to do as a league to connect with our community.”

“Even though the quote itself is baseball oriented, I think that it’s important for us as humans to remember that it’s OK to make mistakes,” she said. “Life can be hard sometimes, but we’re not going to grow if we’re not willing to take some risks and make some mistakes. For me, Little League is about building community and making good citizens, and that core lesson of, ‘Hey, you’ve got to try, even if you aren’t successful at the start,’ is how you build capable, engaged citizens and humans. The baseball context of it can be applied in so many different places.”

Frazier worked through a series of challenging weather elements, such as torrential downpours in June and scorching heat in July.

“Paint can be adjusted temperature-wise. You can paint in pretty cold conditions. I chose to do a combo of exterior and interior paints, but I did seal everything,” she said. “It’s kind of covered down there, but who enjoys painting when it’s pouring out, right? And then after that, it was the mosquitoes. They were awful this year. It seemed like whenever I’d go down there, they were just there. I was wearing mosquito patches and stuff, and they took care of me a little bit, but I was down there for sometimes three, four hours, and halfway through, I’d be like, ‘Am I getting bit?’ Maybe I should stop.’ It was just kind of a funky year for just elements and insects.”

She was then delayed by a bout of carpal tunnel syndrome in late July.

“I had to rest my hand,” she said. “It’s just something that a lot of artists or people that work with their hands encounter. I would start working down there and then like an hour in and I’d be like, ‘I can’t do it anymore.’ I said, ‘Let me just take a couple weeks off to heal this and then see what happens.’ Now it’s all better. I don’t have (carpal tunnel) anymore, which is great.”

Around that same time, though, she experienced a case of “burnout,” mostly caused by a lack of self-confidence. She actually scrapped her initial design and started over again at one point. She thought about giving up, but found a way to endure and complete the project.

“There were times when I started doubting (myself),” she said. “I asked myself, ‘Is this going to be good enough? Should I ask some other muralist in the local area to volunteer their time and take over and finish it?’ But it was a very short period (of self doubt). I said, ‘I want to be proud of this design, and this is a mural that I know I can finish.’ I threw all those self-doubts away because it’s not good to think like that.”

Frazier said that she’s “really pleased” with how the mural turned out and has received positive feedback from ECLL officials and community members.

“When I was down there painting, parents were reading the quote to their kids. That was really something that was special,” she said. “The community members would come down and say, ‘Hey, you’re doing a really great job. Thank you for doing this.’ It was really special to hear that, too. That’s specifically why I wanted to do a quote. It’s going to make me really proud to know that my message to the community is being read and I would hope to be taken like, ‘Don’t let something scare you just because it could potentially not work out. Just keep going for it.'”

The previous mural had been on the shed for at least eight years, according to Neumann.

“It’s definitely frustrating to see things like that happen,” she said. “Personally, I know that there’s a story behind everybody’s actions, so I generally come to things from an empathetic place and wonder why someone would consider this to be an activity that they would take part in. But it was more of a, ‘OK, so this is something that we can take care of, right?’ It makes me want to create a place for more ballplayers, honestly, (and tell the taggers), ‘We can give you something fun to do.'”

Frazier said that she “absolutely” would jump at the chance to create another public mural in the future.

“I have always enjoyed art ever since I was a child,” she said. “I’ve always just been in that creative mindset. I’m not good with math or anything like that. I’m just geared towards the creative side of things, always thinking outside the box.”