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Hearing set on public art amendment

TALENT — A public mural may move a step closer to realization when the town's Planning Commission considers an amendment Thursday, Oct. 27, to the sign ordinance that would allow City Council to approve public art projects.

The Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the matter at 6:30 p.m. at the Talent Community Center, 206 E. Main St.

If the commission approves the amendment, the City Council will still need to approve it.

"With the sign ordinance change, a lot of things can happen so that we can actually have some public art around," said Joe Dunbar, chairman of the city's Public Arts Advisory Committee.

The sign ordinance currently restricts displays on buildings to 15 percent of the total area of a building's front wall. The proposed amendment would create an exception that leaves it up to the council to approve each project.

A Ford Institute Leadership Program group in Talent and Phoenix proposed the mural last spring, only to learn that the sign ordinance wouldn't allow it.

At an April 6 City Council meeting attended by 30 arts advocates, members of the group said they wanted to change the sign ordinance. But an ordinance change would have cost the group $1,000, they were told, and would have taken considerable time.

Instead, city officials in August proposed an amendment to the ordinance that would allow the council to approve of public-art projects.

Interest in the mural project has re-energized the Public Arts Advisory Committee, which has gained new members, started art displays in the City Hall entry lobby and is creating an artist's registry.

"When the Ford group came forward to the council, that's when more interest in the committee came from the public," said Councilman E.J. McManus, committee liaison.

The arts committee and City Council members will meet in December for a study session to explore what a city public arts program might look like and how public art would be defined, said McManus.

"As the ordinance is drafted, the City Council has the decisions," said McManus. "But using an advisory committee ... would be beneficial because (council members) are not artists."

Members of the leadership training group, who are also creating a bandstand in Phoenix's Blue Heron Park, have moved ahead with planning on the mural project.

Artist Karen Rycheck, a leadership group member, has received community comments for a design that would reflect the identity of Talent.

If the project is allowed, community members will be invited to participate in construction and painting of the mural, which will be on 4-by-8-foot panels, some of them three dimensional, said Rycheck.

Four building owners have sought the mural installation, and the site that is selected will be announced at a benefit for the projects scheduled for 7 to 9 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 5, in the Talent Community Center.

The event will include dancing, music by The Jazz Men big band, free appetizers, wine from Paschal Winery, a dessert auction and a push-paddle auction.

Tickets are available at the The Total Picture frame shop, 201 Talent Ave. The cost is $10 in advance and $12 at the door.

Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com.