New mural to appear on exterior of Blue Sky Market in Toppenish

A new mural is being planned for the City of Murals this fall, and anyone familiar with the decades-old collection will be familiar with the artist.

Kennewick painter Don Brown, who has been involved in numerous Toppenish mural projects over the years, is currently working on a concept that will appear on the exterior of Blue Sky Market as soon as September.

The 11-foot-tall by 20-foot-wide mural will feature the original owners of the market at 116 Chehalis Ave., back when it was known as Campbell’s Grocery. Brown said the mid-1930s photograph upon which the mural is based features Mr. and Mrs. Campbell standing in front of the store, alongside an iconic old Ford.

“Apparently, that old car was always parked outside the store,” Brown said, adding that the town’s 75th mural also will include some fruits, vegetables and dry goods. “Anyone who was around back then probably remembers it.”

Brown, who has designed five of the existing murals and assisted on many others, is currently working on a composite painting for the Toppenish Mural Society. Once that scaled-down version (11 inches by 20 inches) is approved, he can begin working on the final product. 

He also must wait for the smooth-concrete panels to be affixed to the market’s exterior wall so he can begin painting. He and the Mural Society would both like to complete the project in time for winter.

“The heat wave kind of complicated things, but I plan to start working on it by late August or early September,” said Brown, who first got involved in the Toppenish Mural-In-A-Day celebration in the late 1990s with his artist friend, the late Fred Oldfield. 

He also remembers working alongside other well-known Western mural artists, such as Robert Thomas, Bob Walton and Ken Carter.

“I really respect the guys who got me into this 25 years ago, and I also respect the art they did for their entire lives,” Brown said. “They taught me a lot, and I’ve really come to love this kind of work because of those experiences.”

Two of Brown’s original mural designs are featured on the Toppenish firehouse, and two more can be found at the fairgrounds. He painted two murals inside the new atrium at Washington Beef in Toppenish this spring, and his work is also featured around the Eastern Washington city of Dayton.

“People just contact me out of the blue, probably because of the work I’ve done in Toppenish over the years,” Brown said. 

When he’s not working on murals, Brown enjoys painting landscapes using oil and canvas. He has been featured in galleries around the Northwest and as far away as New Mexico. But with limited demand for his artwork since early 2020 due to the pandemic, he has mostly been painting for fun.

Now, he’s looking forward to coming back to Toppenish this summer to add to his legacy.

“It’s a chance to do what I love,” Brown said. “Visiting Toppenish always brings back a lot of memories for me. There are some really good-quality murals here; it’s like going to a museum.”

Check out Brown’s work at donbrownart.com.

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