Meet the Artist: A Q&A with Kenji Stoll

Mercy Housing Northwest has teamed up with Tacoma, WA-based artist Kenji Stoll to install a mural on the north facade of the Mount Baker Family Housing and Resource Center, which will be opening in the Spring of 2020.

Kenji sat down with us to talk about how he became a muralist, what inspired him to select a lotus pond as the theme, and what excites him most about this project:

Mercy Housing: Tell us a little bit about you and the work you like to do.

Kenji Stoll: My name is Kenji Hamai Stoll, and I’m a public artist and muralist based in Tacoma, WA. My interest in art was sparked through graffiti art as a teenager. Simultaneously, I’ve always had a deep respect and passion for my own heritage and its artwork, and I see my current work being influenced by both cultures. Flowers possess a lot of symbolism across the globe and are often used to talk about the temporary beauty and impermanence of life. I enjoy tying these elements into my work in ways that inspire people to look at the world around them differently.

MH: When designing the mural for the Mount Baker Family Housing and Resource Center, you talked about the importance of the lotus flower in your design. Can you share more about that?

KS: The lotus flower is unique in that it takes root in thick mud and rises through murky water to bloom vibrantly without a trace of where it came from. Like lotus flowers, it’s important to recognize that as humans, we too can blossom from the most uncertain or unlikely places.

MH: Why do you think it’s important for artists to build a community connection along with their work?

KS: It’s important to me for artists to draw connections that recognize their work as an extension of themselves, and themselves as extensions of their communities; social, familial, cultural, geographical, etc. When artists create work in public, they are bridging the communities they are of, with communities their work is meant to serve. Making and building connections between these is what brings a piece of public art full circle.

MH: What are you most excited about with this mural project?

Rendering of lotus mural on building
Rendering of planned mural

KS: This housing project meets at the intersection of many things: affordability, urban growth, culture, migration, displacement, stability, healing, investment, etc. I’m excited to be able to contribute work that speaks to the complicated nature of these issues. More importantly, I’m excited to contribute work to a project that’s meant to serve and strengthen communities and families across South Seattle and King County.

We anticipate the mural will be completed by early October. Kenji plans to work with local artists and make connections with members of the community who are interested in using murals and public artwork to help build the blossoming public arts district, and to further create a sense of place in Mount Baker. Do you know of a neighborhood group who would be interested in connecting with Kenji? Please reach out to us at info@mercyhousing.org with your ideas!