Painting Pendleton: Washougal artist connects history, nature in new Pendleton mural

Travis London began quest to paint historic Washougal woolen mills building in 2012

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Washougal artist Travis London's mural on the Pendleton Woolen Mills building in Washougal features patterns from Pendleton's blankets and scenes of the Columbia River Gorge. (Contributed photo courtesy of Travis London)

Persistence has paid off for Washougal artist Travis London.

London recently completed a 10-year quest to paint a public mural on the north side of the Pendleton Woolen Mills building in Washougal.

“It means a lot,” he said. “I grew up in Washougal, and I’ve been here basically my whole life. That building is one of the town’s (most significant cultural) landmarks. Leaving my mark and creating something that the community can appreciate makes me feel really good. That’s the whole point of doing public art — trying to connect with the community and hopefully make something that they enjoy.”

The mural’s design incorporates several of the company’s multicolored wool-woven patterns into landscapes of the Columbia River Gorge and some of its prominent features, including Cape Horn, Beacon Rock, Mount Hood and the Columbia River.

“They decided that they wanted to clean up the whole complex,” London said. “They painted the outlet store and put up a new sign, and then they ended up painting that whole north wall ‘Pendleton blue,’ and they did some landscaping work. They kind of overhauled the aesthetics of the building, and I think the mural might have been a catalyst for a lot of that.”

London first approached Pendleton employees with his mural idea in 2012, and kept asking for nearly a decade. It wasn’t until 2021, that London received the “yes” he was looking for.

“I always heard people from the community say, ‘If there’s anywhere that needs a mural, it’s that north wall at Pendleton’ because it’s such a big space and it was kind of boring — I think it was a beige color,” London said. “About a year ago, I approached them again. They had made some administrative changes over the last five years or so, and the new administration was more open to the idea. I was persistent and kept following up because I knew at some point somebody might be interested in pursuing it.”

Rolan Snider, the company’s vice president of textile manufacturing, helped make London’s mural dream a reality.

London started working on the mural in mid-September and finished in early October. The mural was formally dedicated during a small ceremony on Monday, Nov. 21, that drew about 40 people, according to Pendleton Woolen Mills public relations specialist April Rodgers.

“We think the mural is fantastic,” Rodgers said. “Travis had a unique vision of how to combine the Columbia River Gorge and the Pendleton National Park stripes. We were looking to tell the story of the Pendleton’s connection to the beauty of the Columbia River and our 110 years of weaving in Washington. This wall, which faces the neighborhood businesses, was the perfect canvas. We were thrilled to work with Travis, especially since he has such a strong local connection. His other community murals have added great engagement and beauty to the buildings.”

London, a Vancouver School District art teacher, has been painting public murals in Washougal since 2007. His work can also be seen at the Chinese Cafe (1807 Main St.); a building on the corner of 20th and Main streets; the Big Foot Inn (105 Pendleton Way); a garage on 20th St.; the Washougal Times (1826 “E” Street); a building at Northeast Third and Northeast Sixth streets; and at the Port of Camas-Washougal’s industrial park.

His next project is a mural on the Inter-Faith Treasure House building on “C” Street in Washougal.

“That idea of being able to create art in a public space has always appealed to me,” London said. “Most artists want to get their stuff out there so people can see it, so murals and public art is definitely the ideal space to do that and get your artwork reviewed by the community.”

Most of his murals feature animals, such as fish, bears and birds.”

The 40-year-old artist grew up in Washougal and said he has seen a lot of changes in his hometown over the past several years.

It’s changed tremendously,” London said of Washougal. “My passion is for the environment and for local wildlife and nature, and so I try to include that in my messaging within (my art). I try to make sure that we appreciate and remember and take care of (the land) and are stewards of this place as the community grows and expands.”