Portraits of Black Lives Lost Grace New Space

Paintings memorializing some who have died at the hands of police have moved to the arts center.

Since July, shop windows and public spaces on Vashon have been adorned with paintings memorializing Black Americans, including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Samuel DeBose, Tamir Rice, Charleena Lyles, Ayiana Jones and many others who have died at the hands of police in recent years.

Now, those paintings all share a temporary new home, in Vashon Center for the Arts’ long, street-facing breezeway on Vashon Hwy. just south of Cemetery Road.

The series of 24 paintings, along with QR codes to help viewers learn more about the rich lives of the people in the portraits — their relationships with others, skills, likes and dislikes, dreams and ambitions for their futures — will remain in the breezeway from Martin Luther King, Jr. Day throughout February, as part of VCA’s celebration of Black History Month.

These paintings and others like them still remaining in shops in town are the work of the Vashon Remembrance Project, created by West McLean. McLean, an islander, uses a pseudonym because he wants the focus of the work to remain on the people he is eulogizing in his paintings. He has also created portraits of civil rights icons Rosa Parks, now hanging at Minglement, and Fred Hampton, Ida B. Wells and Bayard Ruston, which hang in the tall atrium windows of Vashon Center for the Arts.

The Vashon Remembrance Project paintings in the VCA breezeway have replaced a mural painted by local artist and illustrator Bruce Morser in that spot in 2019. Morser’s mural, which was always intended to be temporary, celebrated the history of Vashon, with much of the mural space depicting a population wave of settlers who began to arrive on the island in the 1880s.

VCA will soon announce its plans for a new mural in the breezeway, said Lynann Politte, VCA’s gallery director.

To find out more about the Vashon Remembrance Project, visit vashonremembers.org.