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Hive of artists behind new Bee City mural in Talent

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Similar to the bees it celebrates, a new mural outside Talent City Hall is the product of far more than one individual’s efforts.

Within the 32-foot-long mosaic simply titled “Talent: Bee City, USA” are tens of thousands of pieces and the efforts of more than 100 volunteers who worked for the past year and a half, according to Talent artist Karen Rycheck, who wore a purple “beehive” wig Saturday morning at the Talent Commons near City Hall, joining city officials in celebrating the completion of the 18-month project.

“It’s very much the community’s work,” Rycheck said. “I facilitated it, but I didn’t make it.”

People of all ages and from throughout Southern Oregon worked on the mosaic, one piece — and one picture — at a time, drawing inspiration from photographs of flowers in their gardens and other pictures of healthy ecosystems to create small sections of the mural at the nonprofit Talent Maker City, or at her home. (Corrected)

Friends Pam Metzger, Anamaria Bustamante and Noel Hastings, all from Grants Pass, volunteered on the project roughly 30 times — sometimes twice a week over the past year.

Hastings, who said she’s “always loved bees,” said she saw a Facebook post Rycheck made last year inviting volunteers to “bee a part of art.” She remembers thinking, “It’s speaking to me.”

“Once we started coming, we felt like we needed to finish this,” Hastings said.

Bustamante said she’s awed to witness how Rycheck could take individuals’ mosaic pictures and lay them out in a way that fit into a larger picture. She remembered Rycheck laying out sections of the mural on her front sidewalk, and said that for much of the time the mosaic lived in sections and pieces in closets and under Rycheck’s bed.

“It was really cool just to watch her brain,” Bustamante said.

Although their home is in Grants Pass, Hastings said the city of Talent “adopted us.”

At age 95 “and a half,” Barbara Massey was the eldest volunteer on the project. She’d only started working with mosaics three years prior, but as a trained ornithologist she said it was important for her to pick “the right blue” when it came to birds in the mural.

Sitting beside Massey was Audrey Cenedella, 81, who said she loved the calm, relaxing nature of working with mosaic pieces.

“Looking at something broken and making something beautiful,” Cenedella said. “It’s a lovely thing to learn.”

The project was funded primarily by a $5,000 Lloyd Haines art grant, according to earlier news reports. Although the project drew numerous volunteers, Rycheck said many of the volunteers had never touched mosaic tiles or the various tools such as miters and saws before.

“It was more about the community aspect and bringing people together,” said Rycheck, who served as something of the “queen bee” on the project.

The mural, and the Saturday event celebrating it, largely focused on Talent’s pioneering role as one of the earliest places to be designated a Bee City USA. Talent was the second city to commit to sustainable habitats for bees, butterflies and other pollinators — the first Bee City being Asheville, North Carolina, where the program started. Today there are 86 Bee Cities around the country, according to the program’s website, including eight others in Oregon: Ashland, Eugene, Gold Hill, Phoenix, Hillsboro, Newport, West Linn and Wilsonville.

Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTCrimeBeat.

Correction:The story printed June 23 incorrectly said Talent Maker City, where volunteers worked on the mosaic, belonged to the city of Talent. Talent Maker Cityis an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneThe new Bee City USA Talent mural in downtown Talent was unveiled Saturday.
The new Bee City USA mural made its debut in downtown Talent Saturday.{ }Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneCeremony of the new Bee City USA Talent mural in downtown Talent Saturday.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneCeremony of the new Bee City USA Talent mural in downtown Talent Saturday.
Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune -Volunteers that helped create the new Bee City USA Talent mural in downtown Talent take pictures next to their art Saturday.
Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune -The new Bee City USA Talent mural in downtown Talent was unveiled Saturday with help from over 100 volunteers.