News

An all-Valley hug: Mary Miller's whimsical 'Heart of the Valley' portrait draws a big crowd

Locals form the shape of a heart for Mary Miller’s “Heart of the Valley” community photo, Sunday, May 19, at Snoqualmie’s Centennial Fields. In the center, three engaged couples kiss: Nicole Hautsreit and Kyle Rotha, Mark Lowe and Heidi Houser, and Phyllis Nieman Rasco and Larry Weidel. - Photo by Mary Miller
Locals form the shape of a heart for Mary Miller’s “Heart of the Valley” community photo, Sunday, May 19, at Snoqualmie’s Centennial Fields. In the center, three engaged couples kiss: Nicole Hautsreit and Kyle Rotha, Mark Lowe and Heidi Houser, and Phyllis Nieman Rasco and Larry Weidel.
— image credit: Photo by Mary Miller

It was, briefly, an exercise in patience. And a test of how close Valley residents really are.

“Lady with the purple shirt. What’s your name?” called out Mary Miller. “Nice to meet you.”

Miller was 60 feet up on an EFR ladder truck, painstakingly moving participants in her second annual “Heart of the Valley” community photo into place, one local at a time.

First, the crowd of about 500 gathered in a circle. Then, Miller called down people in the middle, led by North Bend resident Jeff Warren, to form a center stripe, making a big peace sign. Then, a heart inside a heart. When she formed a solid heart, several more folks got the personal treatment. It was a step to the right here, a step to the left there.

Just Photoshop them in later, called out Warren. Not today, it seems.

Why be here?

Everybody had their own reasons to come and be photographed Sunday.

“It’s got the word ‘community’ in it,” said Nels Melgaard, there with his wife Anne and son Christian. “And it’s got Mary Miller in it. It’s about treasuring the community.”

Nels wasn’t there for Miller’s big heart last year, but he made sure to let all his friends and family know, via social media, about the event.

“We missed it last year,” said North Bend resident Mary McManus, who came with her husband, mother and daughter to the session. “Mary is such a cool community member, small business owner and artist. When we found out about it, we definitely wanted to be a part of it.”

Mom Melissa Jaten-Thompson of North Bend brought the youngest participant, her six-week-old son Cormac, to the shoot.

“We wanted to be able to commemorate his years,” she said. A big all-Valley photo is going right in his scrapbook.

“We’re working well together,” said Miller, as she gathered everybody who brought an umbrella into an inner heart. At the center of that, she invited all couples there who were engaged to be married.

“Busted in public!” said Mark Lowe, who shared a kiss with Heidi Houser. They’ve been engaged since Christmas, and joined two other couples in the middle.

“We love Mary!” added Heidi.

Miller’s finished photos will be unveiled at a show this Friday, May 31, in the upstairs artists’ loft of the Snoqualmie Falls Candy Factory in downtown Snoqualmie, as part of this month’s downtown arts walk.

Afterwards, Miller likened the experience to a “community hug.”

“It’s meant to be a nice, positive release for everybody,” she said. “Find joy among your neighbors. That’s pretty much what I was going for.”

• You can view a slideshow of this event at http://www.flickr.com/photos/32315452@N03/sets/72157633583952696/

Marla Eichler flashes a heart sign, with the rest of the crowd.

Larry and Leah Aichele and their very solid bulldog, Butters.

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.

Read the latest Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Sep 17 edition online now. Browse the archives.