Shoring up Toledo’s Centennial Celebration Mural

Nature has taken its toll on the 13-year-old public artwork commemorating 100 years of the city's history

This seems to be the season for kids and art — a topic that naturally came up earlier this month when the Newport Performing Arts Center celebrated its 30th anniversary. Talk of old times (and new) called to mind for many all the students of dance, music and theater who benefited from the PAC. I’m no expert, but it seems obvious that art opens doors, expands horizons and stretches imaginations. Art, like kids themselves, is about possibility — for everyone.

Thirteen years ago, then Toledo Mayor Sharon Brandstiter saw the possibility for honoring Toledo’s 100 years of history by creating a public work of art. Lawrence Adrian, the artistic director and founder of the Oregon Coast Children’s Theatre and Oregon Coast Children’s Center for the Arts, designed the project and lead the charge to build it. Local residents and companies pitched in, raising something over $10,000 for the project, Adrian said. Students from every school in Toledo had the opportunity to share their creative spirit in what would become the largest mosaic mural in the state.

The Centennial Celebration Mural stretches 96 feet long and stands more than 15 feet high on a stepped retaining wall at the Toledo City Hall parking lot. The design was inspired by more than 100 photos from a century-plus of Toledo history.

The mosaics of the Toledo Centennial Celebration Mural record memorable events of the city’s past 100 years, such as the 1970 filming of scenes for “Sometimes a Great Notion,” based on Ken Kesey’s novel. Photo courtesy: Oregon Coast Children’s Theater and Oregon Coast Children’s Center for the Arts

“One great aspect of the project was meeting many of the people pictured on the mural, or the children or grandchildren of those same individuals,” Adrian said. The mural and the community support it garnered were among reasons Adrian moved the OCCT/OCCCA from Lincoln City to Toledo, he said.

But the years have taken their toll on the mosaic mural. Mud, rocks and debris fall from above, chipping and otherwise damaging tiles. There’s been some vandalism, too, Adrian said. But mostly the problems come from nature — albeit exacerbated by folks climbing on the structure.

Work on the mural is something of an ongoing task (largely by Adrian alone, due to a lack of funding). Cleaning and minor repairs seem to be never-ending; Adrian estimates they have totaled in the neighborhood of $4,500. But in the past five years, the mural has received major damage from hillside erosion. With much of the lumber donated, city crews recently put in a retaining wall, fence and french drains in hopes of controlling the erosion from above and helping to ensure the restoration work isn’t in vain.

Toledo workers have installed a retaining wall, fence and drains in an effort to control hillside erosion that threatens the mural created by the city’s schoolchildren. Photo courtesy: Oregon Coast Children’s Theater and Oregon Coast Children’s Center for the Arts

Hopefully, that means folks will be celebrating the mural and its reflection of the community long into the future.

“The mural represents what can be accomplished when we as people work together,” Adrian said. “My hope is that this city won’t ever forget that we can create great art and do great things when we use our imagination and talent and work together.”

NOT TOO FAR FROM TOLEDO, another kid-centric project is under way with Art Fridays at the Newport Visual Arts Center. The youth-arts learning program runs Friday afternoons for eight weeks (Oct. 5-Nov. 30), offering hands-on visual arts instruction geared toward middle-school students ages 10-14. The 2018 sessions are themed “Creating for the Stage.”

Middle-school students create works of visual art in the Newport Visual Arts Center’s Art Fridays classes. Fall session begins Oct. 5. Photo courtesy: Oregon Coast Council for the Arts

“During the first four classes, students will develop props and masks to be included in the performance work Rick Bartow: In Spirit, to be premiered at the Newport Performing Arts Center in December,” Tom Webb, center director, said in a press release. “Students will be guided by class instructors Marcy Kenyon and Tash Wesp, with input from theater director Marc Maislin. During the last four classes, students will develop mini puppet theater works, focusing on clay-building, puppet-building, costume design, backdrop painting and story-boarding. The mini puppet theater classes will be led by instructor Eileen Hearne.”

Registration fees are $12 per class or $84 for the series, and scholarships are available. For more information, call Webb at 541-265-6569, email artslearning@coastarts.org or visit the website.

ANOTHER 20 OR SO MILES NORTH, the Lincoln City Cultural Center is hosting its fifth annual Sound of Nature, Sound of Art celebration, Oct. 11-13, founded to commemorate the anniversary of the Cascade Head Scenic Research Area. The event, said to be a favorite of students (as well as naturalists and music lovers), combines live chamber music performance with the creation of visual art, both on the stage and in the audience, for a celebration of the senses. This year’s music will be selections from Tango of the White Gardenia, by Ethan Gans-Morse, performed by a four-piece banda from Cascadia Chamber Opera.

As part of that celebration, the banda will take the stage at Taft 7-12 Middle and High School at 1:30 p.m. Oct. 11. As the banda plays, students in the audience will create art inspired by the music. The public is invited, but do check in at the desk. For information on other Sound of Nature, Sound of Art events, go here.

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