Bits 'n' Pieces: Artist's Burnt Bridge Creek school mural fetes literacy

By Stover E. Harger III, Columbian neighborhood news coordinator

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Eve Ellis-Carlson likes to paint big, in scope and size.

The Vancouver artist is wrapping up the final touches on her mural project at Burnt Bridge Creek Elementary School, a huge undertaking that has added a large splash of color to the library. The school’s 12-by-23-foot mural and nine accompanying canvas paintings were created by Ellis-Carlson under the theme, “A Legacy of Literacy.”

“I always paint big, just not this big,” she said.

It all began last year after fifth-grade teacher Chloe Williams and Principal Darcy Mitchelson brainstormed a plan to promote literacy to kids through art. They eventually tapped Ellis-Carlson to implement their vision, a task she was pleased to take on. The mostly self-educated artist has been painting and drawing since she was a child, but recently she’s been wanting to take her passion one step further with commissioned gigs. So she was happy to sign up, to benefit the school and her own artistic aspirations.

“Art is pretty much all I do — art and being a mom,” she said.

The mural features references to literature and fantastical scenarios based around reading, including children flying on books. A likeness of her daughter River, in second grade at Burnt Bridge Creek, can be found in the mural, with the girl perched inside a book fort.

“I thought that was pretty neat. I think that tickled me more than her,” she said.

“I wanted even kids that aren’t so excited about reading to get excited about it, to realize there’s always something valuable to be found by reading and also the library itself.”

And Ellis-Carlson did her best to represent the scope of the diverse community.

“I went the extra mile to try and represent different ethnic groups and different abilities and feature all the different titles that were selected by teachers and students to be featured in the mural,” she said. “I wanted to promote how reading unlocks doors to another world, a fantasy world. But it’s also focused on where we really live. There’s Mount St. Helens, Rainier, Hood in the background and animals. The things you’d see in our neighborhood.”

The Burnt Bridge project was fulfilling, but not always an easy task, Ellis-Carlson said. Not only did she have to design a large-scale piece that showcased a love of reading, but highlight the community as well. And then there was the matter of fundraising to cover her costs. An online crowd-funding campaign that began after she had already started painting didn’t reach the $4,480 goal, but did bring in $2,810 in contributions. Sherwin-Williams donated the paint, which helped a lot, she said.

“This was a community effort,” she said. “It was a labor of love and a great experiment about what is really possible in a year.”

Even though she’s just now wrapping up the final painting for the Burnt Bridge Creek library, Ellis-Carlson has already taken on other projects in the area. She’s finishing a three-part mural in the gym at Mill Plain Elementary and has recently completed a large mural inside the Ray Hickey Hospice House at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center. You can see examples of her work at www.mammothmurals.com.

The experience of painting the Burnt Bridge Creek mural has opened doors to other opportunities, she said. And she couldn’t be more pleased.

“I’ve kind of taken over my entire house with my painting, my family can attest to that,” she said. “I love what I do, I try to utilize it for good, to educate.”

“It’s really nice for once to see it celebrated publicly in such a big way with the mural.”


Bits ’n’ Pieces appears Fridays and Saturdays. If you have a story you’d like to share, email bits@columbian.com.