January 14th, 2004

Public art with history

This is a photograph of a segment of the mural painted in 1936 by the late Kenneth Callahan on a wall in the lobby of the Anacortes Post Office. The following information about the artist is from HistoryLink.org: Callahan was 30 years old at the time he did the Anacortes mural. He adopted the palette of the Ash Can School, a group that began as newspaper artists in Philadelphia and New York and that painted urban America as they found it, in dingy colors, replete with drunks and garbage. In 1942 he won a commission to paint a mural for the post office in Rugby, North Dakota. Callahan recalled that he and Mark Tobey and Morris Graves used to go to the beach when the tide was out. Each one would make some flat arrangement with the driftwood and shells and seaweed they found, and the others would add something to it, to build it up. His work shared stylistic similarities with the work of Tobey and Graves — broken forms, grayed colors, expressionistic brushwork, and a preference for tempera or gouache as a medium, along with a penchant for symbolism, and a spare aesthetic that owed more to Asian than to European art traditions. In 1953, Life magazine dubbed him one of the four leading Pacific Northwest painters. See other photos and information in Activities section under “Kenneth Callahan.”

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About Photographer Steve Berentson

A fourth generation Skagit County native who was moved kicking and screaming from this island community in 1960. I finally reclaimed an Anacortes address in 1980, and I have been in constant celebration of my return since that time. Many of us who call Anacortes home love Fidalgo Island for its natural assets: among them are rugged beaches, pristine lakes, thousands of acres of forestland and some awesome views of the Skagit Valley and surrounding islands. Another element of my love affair with this community is its people, both natives and immigrants. They will “star” in many of my journal entries.

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