Sultan council supports veterans project

Local artist seeks funding to participate in Freedom Rock Tour with lasting impression on city

By Chris Hendrickson

With her American flag project now complete, Sultan resident Christina Sivewright has set her sights on establishing Sultan as an official stop on the Freedom Rock Tour, a new patriotic endeavor that will honor veterans from around the United States “one painting at a time.”

Founded by Iowa artist Ray “Bubba” Sorensen II of Sorenson Studios, the Freedom Rock Tour is a national effort to create custom, hand-painted murals on large boulders around the country. Each mural will highlight a story of pride, duty and honor as it uniquely recognizes a veteran or group of veterans from the community. It is Sorensen’s goal to have his artwork featured in all 50 states and he is giving each state two opportunities to become an official part of the tour. Sivewright was apprised of the Freedom Rock artist through a member of the Sultan community originally from Iowa.

“I thought it would be a great way to honor our Sky Valley veterans, and when I researched the artist I discovered he was starting a 50-state tour aimed at thanking our veterans ‘one painting at a time,’” Sivewright said. “With the flag project completed, I was looking for another opportunity to contribute to my community, and this project felt like a good fit — for us personally and for the Sky Valley.”

An artist herself, Sivewright co-founded Sivewright Studios earlier this year to display and sell her original paintings. She co-founded Sivewright Studios with her husband, Dave, a photographer who uses the platform to showcase his original photographs. It’s a full-circle opportunity for Dave, also known as the Highway 2 Freedom Runner, as he has been prominently featured in countless photographs during his frequent runs through the Sky Valley while carrying an American flag.

Seeking support, Sivewright presented her vision to the Sultan City Council during time set aside for public comment on Thursday, Dec. 1. She thanked the council for its support of her American flag project, which successfully lined Main Street and parts of U.S. 2 with 156 American flags that are posted on holidays and during other special events.

“It’s time to come up with something new to add to our community, so I am presenting to you the Freedom Rock Tour,” Sivewright said.

She outlined the specifics of the project, which involves acquiring an eight- to 10-foot boulder, which will be featured in a prominent location in the city. The rock will be hand-painted by Sorensen, who has been in the process of completing a 99-mural tour that includes each county in the state of Iowa. According to Sorensen Studios, the project is a way of honoring veterans, enhancing tourism and providing for the Sorensen family.

So far, 56 of the 99 Iowa county Freedom Rocks have been completed.

Inspired by his own local efforts, Sorensen is now broadening his vision by creating a national Freedom Rock Tour, inviting all 50 states to join. Next year, he will travel to three states to begin work on the 50-state tour, in addition to continuing his work on the Iowa county Freedom Rocks. 

Sorensen has been painting on rock for 18 years and is skilled at painting for longevity, Sivewright said.

“He’s known internationally for his artwork,” she said.

In order to secure Sultan as one of Washington’s two Freedom Rock Tour sites, Christina said she needs to raise $2,000 for a down payment. Her plan is to guide project logistics through the formation of a Freedom Rock Committee, which would include a member of Sultan’s Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post No. 2554, the VFW Auxiliary and other members of the community.    

“I am hoping to get a city council member to also participate on this committee, an art council member and any additional community members that would add insight to this project,” Sivewright said.

She advised council that if the city were to donate the property and assist in the purchase and placement of the rock, it could be used to help her secure grant funding to potentially pay for the rest of the project. The total cost to become an official part of the Freedom Rock Tour, including the down payment, paint and the artist’s time and work, is $8,500, along with approximately $2,700 for incidental expenditures, such as airfare and lodging for the artist. 

Sivewright said she is working with Sky Valley Arts Council secretary Debbie Copple to explore grant opportunities.

As for the subject matter of the mural, Sivewright said she plans to present Severin “Sam” Martin Wold Jr. for committee consideration, as his name has continuously come up in her recent conversations about the Freedom Rock Tour concept with friends and community members.

Wold was a Native American who served with the Army’s 70th Infantry Division, a unit known as the Trailblazers during World War II. Wold served in the European Theater of Operations and in the Battle of the Bulge, returning home from the war with a distinguished service cross, a silver star, a bronze star and two purple hearts.

Additionally, he was a highly decorated member of the Tulalip Tribes, Sivewright said.

The precise content of the mural will be determined by the committee in collaboration with the artist. 

Sultan councilmembers expressed unanimous support of becoming a stop on the Freedom Rock Tour.

“Christina, you would have my full support on that project and I would serve on that committee,” said Councilmember Rocky Walker.

No decisions were made as to the financing or placement of the rock. Once the Freedom Rock Committee is formed, it will work closely with the city to determine the optimal location. Sivewright plans to present a few different locations for the committee’s consideration, including Traveler’s Park on the south side of U.S. 2, near the All-Veterans Memorial Wall at First and Main streets and at the intersection of Sultan Basin Road and U.S. 2.

As of last week, the Freedom Rock Tour had not yet received any applications for Freedom Rock Tour positions in Washington. Sivewright has her heart set on becoming the first, and began her fundraising efforts during Sultan’s Winterfest craft fair event over the weekend. She said she will likely coordinate a crowdsourced funding campaign in upcoming weeks, a mechanism that was successful during the American flag project.

Sivewright said she looks forward to working with the committee to bring the project to life, with the goal of creating something that the city can be proud of long into the future. 

“I was elated that the city council unanimously agreed,” she said. “This is a monument that will be around for many years to come.”

To find out how to get involved with the Freedom Rock Tour project, email Sivewright at For more information about Sorensen, visit

Photo by Chris Hendrickson: Christina Sivewright is all smiles as she receives unanimous support for her latest project; making Sultan an official stop on the nationwide Freedom Rock Tour.


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