Mural in the lobby of the General Administration Building

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11/17/05 - On The Wall In Olympia

The above mural is in the lobby of the General Administration Building in Olympia, Washington. It represents the great economic output of the state. You can see Paul Bunyan standing in for forestry, the air control tower for Boeing and aerospace, an apple tree and a ladder for the orchards, cattle, deer, streamlined trains, and unfortunately, a symbol representing the pre-quantum theory model of the atom, presumably representing the atomic facilities at Hanford. These murals are wonderful, but they are a thing of the past.

What would the modern version of this mural contain? A cup of coffee for Starbucks, books, and perhaps delivery trucks, for Borders and Amazon. What about Microsoft? Perhaps it could show a personal computer or a security patch download. Medical research at the Hutch and elsewhere should be easy. It could still have a test tube and stethoscope, but the doctor might be a woman. Who knows what real research gear looks like today? Probably it looks like a bunch of computers, sans 1960s tape drives, with tubes coming out of it. How does one portray insurance? What is the instantly recognizable symbol for a web farm?

There is still ship work, and aerospace, and timber. There are still farms out there, and deer and birds. Unfortunately, there do not seem to be any artists producing more modern versions of this type of mural. In the 1930s, Fortune magazine was full of this type of art, representing resources and industry. Nowadays, fewer people think this kind of thing is interesting. This is sad because it is still important to think about where things come from, and not leaving such knowledge to a handful of presumed experts.

Keywords: art, birds, farms, fortune