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Art of the bees

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TALENT -- More than 100 volunteers, most of them learning on the job, are cutting and assembling ceramic and glass tile into a "Bee City USA" panel to go on the front of Talent City Hall.

Funded mainly by a $5,000 Lloyd Haines art grant, the colorful, 32-foot-long array of flowers, birds and bees will pretty up the home of Talent government. But its main purpose, said organizer Karen Rycheck, is to raise awareness of the precarious state of pollinators because of pesticides, climate change and habitat loss.

Volunteers gather three times a week at Talent Maker City, a city-owned shop on East Main Street used for many creative purposes. They learn to use loppers, sanders and ring saws, which requires much focus. The tools are “food for people with obsessive-compulsive disorder — plus community participation is a very meditative process, proven to reduce stress,” said Rycheck, who won the grant and is trying to raise another $1,000 on GoFundMe.

“This project is going to be so beautiful when it goes up in June,” said volunteer Jack Harbaugh. “It’s a wonderful way to get the community involved in an art project. We’ve had over 100 volunteers in the past year, and they all get exposed to the harm from pesticides and lack of food for pollinators.”

Shaping and smoothing leaves at a water saw, which sprays glass as she cuts, Lucinda Moeglein of Ashland said, “I just love this project. I’ve always wanted to work on murals, and Karen is an amazing teacher and gets you right in there working and hanging out with some really cool people.”

The work requires focus, Moeglein added, “but it brings out the kid in me as we play with colors and see the amazing beauty of the mosaic take shape. It’s stunning.”

Noel Hastings of Grants Pass said she’s made the trip to Talent 15 times over half a year.

“I love to do something to celebrate bees and flowers,” she said. “It’s so therapeutic, and you feel part of something important and lasting.”

“I’m real supportive of the movement to save and feed pollinators,” said Eve Thornton of Talent, who studied biology in college. “It’s fun to be part of a community art project with the good purpose of making the city more beautiful and creative. Another nice part is you forget everything else while you’re doing it.”

Rycheck started the project at the beginning of 2018.

“I’m celebrating fewer pesticides and a healthier pollinator corridor up and down the West Coast, something that’s part of the Pollinator Project Rogue Valley,” she said.

The project commemorates Talent as the second Bee City USA in the nation, after Asheville, North Carolina, where the program started. There are now 79 such cities, including seven in Oregon, according to beecityusa.org.

Among the benefits of the designation, says the website, are:

  • It can improve a city or county’s environment, eating habits and economy
  • Helps ensure the survival of vital animal species — hundreds of thousands of species of pollinators — crucial to our planet’s complex food web
  • Raises community awareness of the dangers of non-native invasive plants to the local ecosystem, and least toxic ways to deal with landscaping pest problems
  • Raises community awareness of how our food grows and improves local food production through expanded pollination (More than 150 food crops in the U.S. depend on pollinators, including blueberries, apples, squash, strawberries and almonds.)
  • Improves local plant nursery markets by increasing demand for native, pollinator-friendly plants.

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

Andy Atkinson / Mail TribunePieces of the Bee City glass mural in Talent.
Bee City Talent MuralThumbnail