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Art in the street

Ashland is about to get its first community "street mural," a durable, 28-foot-wide painting of birds, bees and flowers covering the road at the intersection of Faith Avenue and Wine Street painted by neighbors and guests.

Called “place making,” the idea bloomed in Portland, which has more than 30 of them. Four Ashland women launched the project here, starting a GoFundMe drive that netted $790 for supplies. The idea sailed through the city Transportation Commission and it will be painted Saturday, Aug. 26.

“It’s all approved,” said city Engineering Services Manager Scott Fleury, who helped set up a new permitting process for the novel projects. Anyone can apply for them. You have to get approval of 80 percent of the neighbors within two blocks and all the neighbors on the corners.

“I hope it’s popular and there are more in Ashland,” says mural organizer Rachel Gibbs, a watercolor painter, children’s book illustrator and art graduate from Southern Oregon University. “It went over big in Portland. It builds community, gets people talking to each other and makes it safer, slowing drivers down so they look at it and get the feel of the neighborhood.”

For the painting party, they will have potluck food, children’s games, face-painting and live music by locals, all in a street-space blocked off from surrounding streets.

They’ve cut out stencils for flowers and birds and will start at dawn by chalking off the various flora and fauna, including poppies, sunflowers, bees, robins, goldfinches and cedar waxwings. They will be arranged in an X-pattern stretching from corner-to-corner. A drone carrying a camera will be used to take before-and-after pics.

Organizer Barbara Massey, a retired ornithologist who has experience as an artist doing mosaics of birds, will lend her skill to the mural. Kids can participate in the painting.

"I have long enjoyed mixing birds with art — and a community project like a street painting adds another element to the mix,” she says. “Our neighborhood is diverse in ages and talents, and we expect many enthusiastic participants. When our goals are realized, there will be a new, novel and very attractive work of art that all can enjoy.”

The idea is that the mural celebrates the surrounding life and beauty in the valley and “has no deep meaning,” Massey says, noting that neighborhood children wanted fairies in it, but that’s not planned.

“The largest flower, 5 by 6 feet, is the centerpiece for the mural! I can't wait to share the awesome painting day with all of our wonderful community members!” notes Gibbs in herGoFundMe writeup.

Organizer Kat Smith, a mental health provider and former bicycle safety educator (information corrected), writes, "I’m a social and environmental justice advocate who has lived, worked and thrived in Ashland since 2006. I’m a mom, community builder and mental health counselor who loves to bicycle, hike, eat local organic food, bird, dance and laugh! I believe we can build resiliency as a community by engaging in projects that cultivate connection, compassion and camaraderie."

Money raised will also pay for warning signs, city permit fee, brushes, chalk, buckets, rags, rollers and skid-resistant paint, matched one-to-one by Miller Paint of Ashland. The neighborhood crew plans to repaint it every year. Faith Avenue connects Siskiyou Boulevard and Ashland Street, running parallel to Park Street to the west and Clay Street to the east.

The mural needs eight hours to dry, then the fourth annual block party will go on Sunday afternoon.

— John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

Barbara Massey, left, and Rachel Gibbs go over the planning of a street painting planned for the intersection of Faith Avenue and Wine Street in Ashland. [Mail Tribune / Andy Atkinson]
From left, Rachel Gibbs, Barbara Massey and Kat Smith check out the area where stencils will be used to guide people working on a street painting. [Mail Tribune / Andy Atkinson]