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Talent mural will be unveiled Saturday

TALENT — Unveiling of the town's first mural will take place Saturday at noon across from Camelot Theatre on Talent Avenue.

Workers were scheduled to spend today installing the 12-panel, 11-by-311/2;-foot artwork on the side on the building that houses Advanced Business Teleservices at 304 E. Main St. A tarp will cover the mural until it is revealed.

With a theme of "people creating community," the mural portrays people, activities and familiar buildings and landscapes about town. It was designed by Talent artist Karen Rycheck.

"I think everyone will feel that the way they relate to Talent has been reflected (in the mural)," said 96-year-old Bert Witt, a resident who contributed to the large-scale, paint-by-numbers project.

A Ford Institute Leadership Program group for both Talent and Phoenix raised funds for the mural. The group also worked to revise city policies that previously didn't allow murals. Rycheck is a member.

Once the paperwork was completed, Rycheck created a design that was critiqued by others. She then enlisted the help of community members, who started the painting in June.

"It was so nice to meet people I hadn't met before," said Rycheck. "You could just lose yourself in the painting."

Painting was more detailed than she had anticipated.

"In the figures there are lots of fine lines, so it did take some adult skills," said Rycheck. But several Talent youngsters were able to perform those tasks, too, she noted.

Alternative art activities were provided for younger painters with limited attention spans.

More than 50 community members showed up to help paint. People were stopping her on the street to see when they could help, she said. One couple celebrated their 26th anniversary by painting.

"We had people who had never painted in their lives," Rycheck said.

Witt worked five two-hour sessions and also donated money to help with the project.

"I don't think I ever did a more ambitious project than a Halloween pumpkin," said Witt. "It was particularly fun to be sitting next to a 4-year-old kid and then an older person."

Witt painted a pair of jeans he made look wrinkled and aged on the top of one panel, but didn't get to see the whole person until work started on the next panel.

Ashland custom home builder Michael Ryan and his crew will install the panels beginning early today. His friend Bobby Townsend, a group member, arranged their work.

Besides heat, the biggest challenge will come if the wall isn't flat, Ryan said. He may need to use shims behind the panels to make sure they don't throw shadows on adjacent panels.

Rycheck created about 100 shades of water-based acrylic paints made especially for murals. A four-layer, protective clear coat of material designed for easy cleanup was applied to the panels, which were also treated on the back to prevent water damage.

Building owner Marsha MacCormack applied to the group to have the project installed. It was created on panels so it could be moved to another location if needed.

About $5,000 was spent on materials and a stipend for Rycheck. Phoenix's project from the leadership group will be building a bandstand in Blue Heron Park, the groundbreaking for which was Aug. 2.

Interest in murals appears to have increased. Owners of the Downtowne Coffee House have approached the city's Public Arts Advisory Committee about doing one after they finish an expansion project. Talent Historical Society has also expressed interest in having a mural on its building.

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