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More painted columns planned for Medford

The Medford Arts Commission is soliciting artists to beautify concrete pillars that hold up the freeway in Medford
The Medford Arts Commission has sent out a request for proposals to create murals on six columns near Jackson Street, a continuation of a 2015 project to add murals to the gray I-5 supports along Hawthorne Park. [Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune]

Drab columns that support Interstate 5 through Medford will be reimagined with an artist’s touch this summer.

The Medford Arts Commission has sent out a request for proposals to create murals on six columns near Jackson Street, a continuation of a 2015 project to add murals to the gray I-5 supports along Hawthorne Park.

Artists can submit their ideas by July 18 at www.periscopeholdings.com/s2g.

The Arts Commission has set aside $55,000 for the project, and artists can select one or more columns for their designs.

There is no specific theme for the mural design.

The Arts Commission was “more interested in seeing what ideas they have for the pillars,” said Jesse Nyberg, Medford recreation superintendent. “It will be interesting to see what people come up with.”

A week after the proposals are sent in, the commission will have a meeting and select an artist or artists to do the work.

The tentative deadline to finish the murals is Oct. 15.

“We’re hoping for cooperative weather to get the project done,” Nyberg said.

The artwork would be painted from the supporting beam that connects to the pillars that support the I-5 viaduct.

In 2015, artists Jessilyn Brinkerhoff and Esteban Camacho Steffensen, painted murals on six pillars just south of Jackson Street as part of an effort to improve Hawthorne Park.

They spent seven months coming up with ideas for the columns, and they employed a couple of lifts to hoist themselves 20 feet above the ground as passersby looked on.

Each face of a pillar will represent two months out of the year. The north face of the pillars closest to Jackson Street represent January and February. On the south side, they are March and April. The same format continues on the other four pillars.

The murals depict different vistas and wildlife found in the Rogue Valley. One mural shows the area’s tallest peak, Mount McLoughlin.

A cougar appears to creep down a rocky promontory on another mural.

Once finished, the columns required a clear coat that should help protect them from graffiti, the elements and from being washed out by the sun.

Other species that are depicted include the western pond turtle, blue heron, trout, salmon, rattlesnake, swallowtail butterfly, pollinators, insects and black bear.

Nyberg said there has been some vandalism in the lower areas of the painted columns, and the Arts Commission has plans to have the original artists repair them.

The original column project was in addition to the $1.6 million in work to remodel Hawthorne Park, also completed in 2015.

In the future, more columns will get an artist’s touch, potentially treating all the supports down to Main Street, though some of the columns are very close to Bear Creek.

The Oregon Department of Transportation has been involved in the project, and spent $14,700 in 2015 to remove lead-based paint from the columns before the murals were installed.

Reach freelance writer Damian Mann at dmannnews@gmail.com.