New Nirvana Mural Project Displays Kurt Cobain’s Local Legacy


By Britta Folden

chehalis sheet metalThe relationship between life, loss and art are complicated and almost always heavily intertwined. What is it about Grays Harbor that inspires creativity? It could be the gray skies or the quiet nights or maybe just the everyday way of life here. One of our most famous former residents, Kurt Cobain, had a complex relationship with his hometown and many citizens still have a complicated relationship with him long after his unfortunate death.

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Local artist and educator, Erik Sandgren, created a mural paying homage to Kurt Cobain’s local roots.

Despite this, travelers still make pilgrimages to Grays Harbor from all over the world to better understand Kurt and what this place meant to him and his music.

Recent homages to Nirvana and Kurt Cobain have been popping up over the past years in an effort to memorialize his history and also give visitors a point of interest. Most recently, on August 23, a mural 68 feet in length was installed on the Wishkah Street side of the Moore’s building in downtown Aberdeen.

The Nirvana Mural came to life after a conversation Sylvia Dickerson, local committee member of the Our Aberdeen group, had with local artist and Grays Harbor College educator, Erik Sandgren.

She had great respect for his past work and wanted him to do a historical piece for the Moore’s building.

The Our Aberdeen group has been making efforts to restore or replace many of the murals in the area that have been damaged by weather or completely lost by torn down buildings or other mishaps. These murals are steeped in local history and Sylvia wanted something new that added to the collection.

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Erik Sandgren (center) called in four other artists to help with the mural.

The Moore’s Building sits on the corner of Wishkah and Broadway, one of the busiest intersections in town. While the building is historic, the history of earthquakes required the addition of blue siding in the mid 1990s. The building owner, Jim, wasn’t pleased with the change but it was essential because of the earthquake’s damage. In order to break up the boring blue, they wanted to add a mural to the building.

Erik accepted the challenge with the one caveat that he would be able to paint on board panels rather than directly onto the wall. Sylvia agreed and he sketched up 13 drafts for approval.

Erik wanted to convey the relationship between the band and those he influenced, so he brought in four former art students who had varying experiences with this musical influence to assist him and contribute to the creation of the piece of art.

The names of all five artists, including Erik Sandgren, David Wall, Anthony James Cotham, Dominic Senibaldi, and Jason Sobottka are scrawled on each panel of the mural.

“The mural continued to evolve,” Erik said, as they painted the complex panel pieces with enamel paints for a total of 720 hours fully clad in respirators.

Each of the five artists made important additions and they also included recommendations from Nirvana’s own Krist Novoselic. Erik payed particularly close attention to the detail of the guitars’ design accuracy as well as the bands that influenced the band members. The group worked on creating the piece in the upstairs of the Electric Building with his team over the summer months of 2014.

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The Nirvana mural is installed on the side of the Moore’s building at the intersection of Wishkah and Broadway in Aberdeen.

Erik made a special effort to infuse the painting with the complexities of the life Kurt lived. His kind and sweet artistic personality compared to his inability to handle the pressures of fame and the unattractive and messy nature of the music in a world of 1990s clean-cut pop culture.

“People who know this music will be able to see a lot in it,” Erik concluded, and he doesn’t expect everyone to like it. He further explained that at the heart of the painting is a picture of Kurt, bent over playing guitar, turning his back on the many things that influenced him.

After a year of planning and months of hard work in the makeshift painting studio, the mural now stands in downtown Aberdeen.

Jim, the owner of the building passed away in December and the mural is now dedicated in his name. The official mural dedication will take place on September 20 with guest Krist Novoselic.

Take a walking tour of other Nirvana landmarks throughout Grays Harbor.  Click here for the full details.


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