Crowds gathered Wednesday evening to stroll through the “Ehkahnam,” the new mural painted along the 13th Street Alley by artist Andie Sterling for the Astoria Downtown Historic District Association.
Sterling named the mural after the Chinookan word for story.
“I wanted to create a design that had an abstract landscape, that tried to tie in all the different types of landscapes that come together to make Astoria what it is,” she said. “I also wanted to use lines as a way to invite people into the space and draw them through the space.”
Organic lines from either side of the alley lead to a tree-lined mountain range with a lush farm valley. Sterling used a a color palette from native elements like salmon, spruce, fir, lichen, moss, cranberry, Velella velella, fern and reflections on the Columbia River and Pacific Ocean.
The mural spans 6,000 square feet.
“I worked on it every day for three weeks,” Sterling said. “There were several 12-hour days in there.”
Sterling received help from fellow local artists like Darren Orange, who helped paint the cool blue-white base coat; Stirling Gorsuch, who painted the tree line atop the mountains; and Anna Weber, who added gold leafing to the mountain ridges.
The idea for painting the alley stretches back a decade, said Sarah Lu Heath, the executive director of the downtown association.
Last year, the group began hanging lights and gathering donations for a mural to increase pedestrian traffic and improve safety in the corridor connecting Duane and Commercial streets. The mural, at a cost of $12,500, received donations from the Pacific Power Foundation, Astoria Sunday Market, the city, the state Historic Preservation Office and dozens of individuals.
For a second phase, Sterling proposed turning the sidewalk into a cobblestone alley with moss to absorb water.
“Astoria needs more urban green spaces, and moss grows really well there,” she said.