The murals just keep on coming in Corvallis.
Artists are carefully applying paint over building walls all over town. Animals, postcards, abstracts, messages, you name it.
According to Jennifer Moreland, who started the Corvallis Mural Project, there have been more than 15 additions to the city’s stock of murals since April 2019. And four of them went up in the COVID year of 2020.
“BOY … do I have a lot of updates for you! Get ready for a lot of information,” Moreland said during an exchange of emails.
To Moreland, the murals surge mixes together a wide range of community interests: downtown tourism, the Corvallis art scene and general livability.
"Murals are a way to make art accessible for all people,” said Moreland, who also serves as executive director of the Downtown Corvallis Association. “Murals are an opportunity to tell the community's story by creating a unique experience. Public art engages citizens, increases foot traffic and tourism, heightens awareness for the arts and artists, and increases the overall attractiveness of the downtown area. The more art in downtown the better, I say!"
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A key addition, Moreland said, is the “Greetings From Corvallis” postcard mural in the alley behind the Common Fields food truck pod/community gathering space. The artist was Eileen Hinckle, a Corvallis native and key figure in the mid-valley mural scene. Last fall Hinckle created a massive lizard on a wall at Reptopia on Pacific Boulevard in Albany.
“This mural is meant to reflect the overall aesthetic and vibe of Corvallis and was a gift to the community to lift spirits and pride during a tough time,” Moreland said of Greetings From Corvallis. “It tells the story of Corvallis, a postcard like a snapshot in time, including scenes from the past, present and future of Corvallis.”
It should be noted that one of those scenes is the Van Buren Bridge. It definitely has had a past and present in Corvallis, but its future is kind of shaky.
Rotary Club entry
Also entering the murals parade is the Rotary Club of Greater Corvallis.
Outgoing President Helen Higgins, also CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of Corvallis, noted that one of her goals as president “was to increase the awareness and understanding of Rotary within our local community.” Her first idea was a billboard, but a club committee “kind of redirected me toward some bigger, more permanent thinking.
“And I’m glad they did as this will be a legacy gift to the art projects around the downtown corridor.”
Higgins’ club teamed up with three other Rotary Clubs, Corvallis, After 5 and Philomath and hired Hinckle, who expects to finish early next month. Included will be images of Rotarians reading to school kids, the family movie night in Avery Park and the Rotary Shelter in Willamette Park along with international Rotary work on vaccines and clean water.
“My hope with this mural project is to educate our community to know what Rotary is, who we are, and to inspire local community members to consider joining us in our work to make positive change and advance goodwill locally and around the world,” said Higgins.
Corvallis is hosting a district Rotary conference next April, and the Hinckle mural will be the backdrop for a street party during the event, Higgins said.
Culture with coffee
Coffee Culture also is proving to be major player in the mural movement. Artist Skye Walker already had applied his evocative vision on the company’s Kings Boulevard outlet and he now has also adorned the Jefferson Avenue and Ninth Street ones as well.
“There is no explicit tie-in with our coffee business,” said Paul Tostberg of Coffee Culture. “We wanted to provide some public art to the local community and the response has always been much enjoyment and appreciation.”
“I had a blast creating this piece for them (as always),” Walker said of the most recent work, the Ninth Street piece, which is called “Illumination” and consists of spray paint on cement. The Jefferson work was done in acrylic and is called “Radiance.”
Downtown property owner Hugh White, meanwhile, heard of the Gazette-Times interest in updating the community on murals and began sending out emails. That’s how we got in touch with artist Courtney Marchesi, who has painted “Ollie the Otter” on the side of the downtown American Dream and also “Release the Kraken!” — an octopus inside the Kraken Cards shop on Southwest Third Street.
The otter idea came from White’s wife, Elizabeth, an otter fan who volunteers at the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport. The Ollie name was selected by those who visited the site while Marchesi painted it and participated in a community poll on Facebook.
“There were a lot of good ones,” Marchesi said of the naming suggestions, and “it was a lot of fun getting the community involved.”
Mysteries abound in the mural biz as well. The photographer found a portrait and quote of Coretta Scott King on an alley north of Western Boulevard. Moreland said she still is trying to get the name of the artist, although she knows it was completed after April 2019.
The photographer also found a mural at the Raw Hair Society on Southwest Third Street but couldn’t get the shot because cars were between the lens and the mural. Moreland had the scoop.
“That was a business sign mural for a dance school called Corvallis Rain,” she said. “They went out of business during COVID closures and Raw Hair Society has taken over their space by expanding into it. I had heard that the mural would be painted over. I just drove by to make sure, and it is magically no longer there. It is just a drab gray wall, freshly painted.”