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Artist gives new life to slice of Rogue River

You can't see them yet, but a crate of escaped chickens will soon be running amok in downtown Rogue River, much to the consternation of a local farmer and the delight of a young boy.(the spelling of this name has been corrected) who stopped to chat with Eding on Wednesday after picking up her mail at the post office.

The town's mural society hired local artist Bob Eding to paint a 450-square-foot historical mural on the post office building in the Rogue River Shopping Center in the 500 block of East Main Street.

"We feel very fortunate to have an artist of Bob's ability paint our mural," said Wanda Nesbit, director of the Rogue River Mural Society. "He's done work for the Smithsonian."

Eding, 56, of Gold Hill, has done several other murals in Grants Pass. He is perhaps best known for his part in Bearfest, a popular exhibit of fiberglass bears.

Eding's depiction of the early 20th century downtown scene — measuring 11.6 feet high by 39 feet wide — is quickly taking shape on the side of the post office. Eding used special fade-resistant paint to block in the tree-lined background and the outlines of storefronts. On Friday, the first townsman was taking shape.

"I buy the paint from a company in West Hollywood," said Eding. "It's been used for murals at Disneyland and Knotts Berry Farm. I like the feel. And it covers really well."

In the coming weeks, Eding will add life to his mural — the humans, the harnessed horses, one very interested dog and a flock of poultry. Eding used a 1908 photograph of a horse-drawn wagon received from the Woodville Museum as a starting point.

He took a little artistic license by including the poultry.

This is, after all, the home of the Rooster Crow, said Nesbit.

"I told him, 'Bob, we gotta have at least one rooster," she said.

Post offices were often the social hub of a town. This seems to have remained so in Rogue River. Several people are watching the progress of the mural, regularly stopping to discuss the artwork's evolution with Eding.

"It'll be a great asset to the community," said Barbara Burnett,

Once Eding's mural is complete, Nesbit said, her group plans to create an area in front of the post office wall where people can sit a spell, chat awhile and enjoy the local art scene.

The society raised about $12,000 for the project from yard sales and donations. More than $8,000 will pay for Eding's postal mural. Thanks to the revenues from four bake sales, combined with donations from Evergreen Bank, mural society members and others, some seed money will be left over for more murals.

Eding's work is the first of what Nesbit hopes will be at least five more historical murals, she said.

The next may be a depiction of the town's first fire engine. Or perhaps the subject will be logging, or fishing or the first school house. As long as the murals are historical and accurate, they can only help attract visitors to downtown businesses, said Nesbit.

"Anything to put Rogue River on the map and draw attention to us," she said.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or e-mail sspecht@mailtribune.com.

The completed depiction of a 1908 Rogue River street scene will be 39 feet wide and 11.6 feet high.