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Proposed Talent mural focuses on agriculture

TALENT — A new group called Friends of Talent Public Art has gained charity status and is working with a well-known Rogue Valley artist on a proposed mural that would spotlight local agriculture.

Betty LaDuke of Ashland has agreed to donate design services and images for the display on the Talent Liquor Store at the corner of Highway 99 and West Valley View Road. The City Council and the Architectural Review Committee will need to approve the installation.

"We don't have a design completed or anything to see at this point," said Karen Rycheck of the friends. "We wanted to be sure we got 501(c)3 status."

LaDuke's murals, paintings and sketches have gained international acclaim.

She has chronicled people's struggles overseas and in America's civil rights movements. She taught art at Southern Oregon University for 32 years.

After years of international travel, LaDuke turned her attention to local farms, orchards and vineyards in 2010, when she began compiling sketch books.

"We will focus on agriculture. The vineyards and pear orchards of the last couple years," said LaDuke. "It's kind of an honoring of ... the farmers and workers. The basic concept of getting food on the table."

Images LaDuke would use in the mural design already exist, created for a display of 26 panels at the Medford airport's baggage area. About nine of the images, with a height of up to six feet, would be used.

The art would be digitized and printed onto metal, then cut out by Sundance Signs of Central Point. An abstract, symbolic background would suggest the landscape, and the art would then be mounted to the building.

"I think it's going to be kind of neat to have," said Talent Liquor Store owner Ron Todd.

The mural, if approved, would be on the building's south side facing Valley View.

"The new roundabout development is going to happen adjacent to that," said Rycheck. "Our desire is to make that a welcoming and interesting entrance to town."

Friends of Talent Public Art arose as the city's Public Arts Committee, which recommends art projects, realized a mechanism was needed to fund proposals.

A community meeting on Sept. 11 led to formation of the group. About 50 people are involved. Rycheck will chair the group when her appointment to the city committee expires Dec. 31. Kelly Lamb has led the group during its formation.

Multicultural Association of Southern Oregon serves as fiscal sponsor for the new group so that it can receive tax deductible donations. All funds will pass through the association, which will do financial accounting for the mural project.

The group will seek grants to pay for mural expenses. A project budget is being completed.

"Sweat equity is what we are looking for," said Rycheck. "We could really use anyone with grant-writing experience "¦ also accounting experience." Other artistic initiatives are being planned by the group.

A get-to-know local artists night will be held at the Avalon Bar and Grill on a date to be announced. Poetry posts where people could display literary efforts are under consideration. Working with Recology, the group may create artworks out of recycled materials.

LaDuke's work will be shown in City Hall from Jan. 13 to mid-March. Rycheck can be reached at missmosaicgirl.com.

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