Oregon Is Magic

An Oregon Is Magic mural completes phase 1 of the “Art Flurry in Curry” project launched by the grassroots economic revitalization citizen group Gold Beach Main Street.

Artist Zach Johnsen of Portland began painting an outside wall at Interior Coverups in Gold Beach last week, and now it’s a bright, new Oregon Is Magic mural, completed Sept. 29.

The artwork is right on the city’s main street at 29325 Ellensburg Ave. (U.S. Highway 101).

Johnsen originally is from New Hampshire, but he’s been in Oregon for the past 10 years. “Gold Beach reminds me of my hometown, with all the trucks going by and people honking and cheering me on,” he said.

Zach Johnsen

Zach Johnsen pauses atop a 10-foot ladder to talk about the mural project in Gold Beach.

Johnsen recently completed another mural project, in New Hampshire.

The paints used in the mural are high-quality exterior house paints and spray paints.

“This mural project is a collaboration between Oregon Coast Visitors Association, Travel Oregon and Gold Beach Mainstreet, and is part of the overall ‘Art Flurry in Curry’ project,” said Dave Lacey of the Oregon Coast Visitors Association. Lacey is the visitor association’s south coast destination coordinator.

Travel Oregon, in partnership with the Oregon Cultural Trust, is bringing murals to each of Oregon’s regions with Forest for the Trees, a nonprofit organization dedicated to creation of contemporary public art and bringing artists together in collaborative settings.

Gold Beach is only the eighth city in Oregon to have one of the whimsical murals that are part of the “Slightly Exaggerated, Oregon Is Magic” marketing campaign through Travel Oregon.

Other murals are located in Yachats, Forest Grove, Roseburg, Ontario, Prineville, Oakridge and The Dalles.

Getting on the Oregon Mural Trail is just one aspect of Gold Beach Main Street’s grassroots economic development and revitalization plan. The goal of the mural trail is to encourage visitors to visit the landmarks and businesses that make small towns magical, according to TravelOregon.com.

The Pilot caught up with three of Gold Beach Main Street’s board officers — president Laurie Van Zante, vice president Deb Treinen, and treasurer Cherie McNair — to talk about what they’ve been doing.

Gold Beach Main Street evolved from the Gold Beach Beautification Committee formed for Make a Difference Day 2015. The Latter-Day Saints brought about 300 volunteers to help clean and beautify the town.

That effort brought together a hometown commitment to preparing sites for the volunteers’ work and to help finish the projects.

Volunteers Planting

Gold Beach Main Street volunteers dig in and get dirty preparing the bench site in front of Interior Coverups.

The tightknit group remains excited about the impetus for their project, finishing each other’s thoughts and sentences as they describe the event …

Van Zante: “We just all got so ecstatic.”

Treinen: “Oh, yeah, we were motivated.”

McNair: “How can we could design and plant and use their services to make a difference?”

Treinen: “We only had three to four weeks to come up with a plan, go buy all the plants, get ready for all these 300 people coming.”

McNair: “And have all the spots ready for them just to plant.”

Scott Knox, a Gold Beach farmer, brought 14 dump truck loads of soil to the triangle of land in Wedderburn to create some elevation. The triangle is at the north end of the Patterson Bridge, over the Rogue River as it heads into Gold Beach.

Freeman Rock donated the river-run rock and the boulders.

McNair: “It’s hard to name just one person, because so many people came in.”

Treinen: “It was amazing.”

Van Zante: “Everyone pitched in.”

The group organized as a 501(c) 3 nonprofit in 2016, modeled after the national Main Street, and is part of the Oregon Main Street movement.

A series of community meetings and surveys determined that the next beautification and improvement project would be a series of benches throughout town, which would invite people to linger and enjoy the community’s ambience.

Their first 13 benches came through an urban-renewal grant provided by the City of Gold Beach. The benches have been a major labor of love, involving numerous community volunteers doing everything from removing asphalt, to pouring cement pads on which the benches were placed, to landscaping the sites with trees and shrubs.

Artists on Benches

These artists found a great place to linger and make art at benches located at the Port of Gold Beach.

“The bench projects are actually mini-parks spread throughout the town,” said Van Zante. The sturdy cast-iron benches have a wave pattern theme incorporated into the design.

The group had just finished a conference call with the Oregon Community Foundation about their grant application to put in six more benches. They will find out if they have been given the money sometime in November.

VanZante: “The bench project is sort of a metaphor for community spirit, for momentum, for community buy-in, for hope of restoring our town.”

Interior Coverups Benches

The benches with landscaping in front of Interior Coverups complement the completed mural in the background. 

McNair: “I think that was the biggest success, moving the spirit, lifting the spirit of the town up.”

Treinan: “Everyone gets energized when they see something new and fabulous come to main street, which creates even more energy.”

That energy will be moving forward further now that the first phase of a three-part grant, dubbed “Art Flurry in Curry,” has been completed. The mural was funded by the Oregon Coast Visitors Association and Travel Oregon.

The second part of the project will be creating signs and banners for businesses along main street that coordinate with the wave theme of the benches.

The signs will be funded by the Wild Rivers Coast Alliance, the City of Gold Beach and Travel Oregon.

The group envisions signs bearing the coastal themes of windsurfers, kite boarders, surfers, hikers, fishing — all activities that are available in Gold Beach.

The third phase of the project will be a public-art sculptural installation created from sea debris. The plan is to place it at the Visitor Center.

Wild Rivers is paying for the art; the City of Gold Beach will provide land and labor for the installation.

And that’s not all the group has been working on. Members applied and received from Oregon Main Street a Main Street Revitalization Grant of $166,695.

That’s for fixing two historic buildings with new stucco and roofing. The Ace Hardware building in the heart of the downtown district received a new roof and facia boards. It had been the first hospital in Gold Beach.

Sue Golay

Sue Golay stands in front of her building, which is the beneficiary of a Main Street Revitalization Grant. 

The other grant recipient, at the north end of the town’s main thoroughfare, used to be the Sunset (gas) Station and is owned by Sue Golay. The Golay building has been remodeled to provide live/work space, with living quarters added above the shop space below.

Providing flexible housing options, funding business finance options, and fostering a bright and vibrant culture are several of the ways the group hopes to bring new residents and new businesses to town.

“I really think what we do for main street is not just for the tourists, it’s also for all of us who live here and our kids, and family and friends. We want to be proud of where we live,” said McNair.

Added Van Zante, “We will continue to work on ways to attract new residents and new industry.”

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