Wingate creates July 4th T-shirt tradition in Douglas

Posted: Friday, June 29, 2001

Amy Wingate's trademarks are firecrackers and fish.

For 13 years, these motifs have been prominently featured on the Douglas Fourth of July T-shirts, a traditional part of local Independence Day celebrations.

"I like the colors she uses and I like the idea she has," said Joy Baker, a longtime Douglas resident who organizes advance sales of the shirts. "People just know that she's the one that does them and they like her work."

Wingate, an intern architect who works with the firm of Jensen Yorba Lott Architects, began designing the shirts after several boxes of trophies ended up languishing in her basement. As manager of the 2-mile race that takes place before the main Fourth of July parade in downtown Juneau, she was responsible for giving out prizes.

"People wouldn't hang around to collect their trophies," Wingate said. "We always got stuck with a basement full. ... So I said, 'Why don't you give out T-shirts?'"

They gave it a shot, making silk-screened shirts and handing them out to runners as they crossed the finish line. Problems still managed to crop up.

"It was kind of a big mess," Wingate said. "One year there were only a certain number of T-shirts, so the little kids didn't get (them). There was a big crying scene at the end of the race, and it was just awful."

Luckily, the Douglas Fourth of July Committee realized the T-shirt venture could be profitable, and they took over. Wingate stayed on as designer.

"It is the main fund-generator for the Fourth of July Committee," said Rich Poor, head of the committee. "She presents them to us and of course they're always great. It's never any problem getting them approved."

Wingate always has been interested in art, but hasn't had much formal training. Born in Seattle, she majored in architecture at Washington State University before moving to Juneau and settling in the Douglas area in 1983.

"I moved right to the same house I live in now," Wingate said. "I'm kind of a Douglas girl. I keep trying to move downtown but it doesn't ever work."

The early 1980s were a boom time for architecture in Juneau, Wingate added, with several new firms struggling to start up. She took a job with the Fairbanks-based J.D. Myers and Associates, then moved on to Jensen Yorba Lott, where she has worked for eight years.

Wingate said her architectural work doesn't necessarily call on her artistic talents.

"Architecture is more of a business than an art," she said. "(I) try and get some art into it. It does happen, but it's mostly day-to-day kind of business things."

Her creative flair is an asset, said Wayne Jensen, one of the owners of the firm.

"She likes graphic design, interior design, residential design. Those are probably her strengths, and I think that interest in design is reflected in her architecture and in her T-shirt designs," he said.

The 2001 T-shirt design is Wingate's favorite thus far.

"It's got firecrackers on one side, and then a salmon stream goes up through the middle," Wingate said. "There's salmon running up, mountains on the other side, the sun and a tree with a crow in it, and three houses and Sandy Beach. It's kind of abstract."



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