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Garage mural featured at First Friday and in Oregonian

Dillon McCord's rainforest garage door mural is showing up all over the place.

Toward the end of July, the 15-year-old learned he might have to paint over a rainforest mural he created on his mother's garage door because of restrictions regarding home color in his neighborhood on Williamson Way. Newspaper stories and a flood of comments on the Ashland Daily Tidings led to a controversy over freedom of expression, conformity and the importance of the real estate business in Ashland.

Stuck in the middle, McCord finds a photo of his mural splashed across the "Metro" section of the Oregonian newspaper today. It will also be on display from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. today at Ashland Art Works at 291 Oak St. during A Taste of Ashland's Art Walk.

Dillon painted the mural as an entry to a competition for the children's magazine "Cricket." When some neighbors showed concern about the garage door's incompatibility with neighborhood standards, the subdivision developer sent Dillon and his mother a polite letter stating the garage door had to be the same color as the home. The door's incompatibility with the neighborhood worried a Realtor that if everyone did what Dillon had, it could affect the neighborhood. Shortly after a story about the mural appeared in the Tidings July 27, a barrage of e-mails swamped the newspaper Web site talking about the rules versus individuality of the situation.

"Some of the things I've heard is that Ashland is looking more like Orange County than Ashland," Audrey Flint, Dillon's mother, said.

For Dillon, all the controversy was not the sort of attention he was looking for.

"I never really thought about all that," he said. "I just wanted to paint."

The funny thing about Dillon's recent experience is that painting is not his sole passion. Flint said the teenager is just as much into fencing as painting. She said a lot of people are asking if he wants to be an artist in the future, but art isn't Dillon's only interest.

After the controversy started to settle, Audrey Flint wrote a letter to the editor about the situation. She was, and still is, looking for a new home for the garage door, which Mahar Construction took down and replaced with a donated one Thursday. Brad Roupp, owner of Ashland Art Works, saw the letter and thought a little extra publicity at First Friday might help connect with someone who could display the door somewhere else. For now, Flint said that is the top priority.

"I said, 'you know, of all the local artists, he's got something to show,'" Roupp said.

Dillon's art work will be the centerpiece of this evening's exhibit, with other works surrounding it. He and his mother both said they would be there to talk with people. Flint said they might auction the door off, in which case, Dillon would like to donate the money to a rain forest charity. Bob Miller, a retired garage door contractor, has volunteered to install the door.

The overwhelming input about his art work does not seem to have Dillon fazed. The soft-spoked 15-year-old said he doesn't have any big plans for any upcoming art work and has managed to steer clear of any personal controversy. He has seen a lot of support, also. While many cynical e-mails were posted on the Daily Tidings Web site, someone made a more subtle statement. A Daniel Pinkwater children's book, "The Big Orange Splot," appeared on McCord's doorstep with no note or information as to where it came from.

The book is about someone who lives in a neighborhood where all the houses look the same. He starts painting unique colors on his house, and shortly after everyone in the neighborhood follows suit.

For now, Flint said things may be dying down, and she hopes someone will provide a home for Dillon's mural where he can drive by and see it. He should know the results of the Cricket magazine competition in a few weeks, and that may be the end of it. When asked if she thought her son's mural would transform Ashland in some small way, Flint said probably not.

"I don't think we're making a change," she said. "I think it's a wonderful opportunity to open it up for discussion, but we never went into this intending to make a statement."

Staff writer can be reached at 482-3456 x 227 or .