MURALS: Inspiring Art & Culture – New Law Allows for Murals in Bend’s Makers District

Not without controversy, just like the approval of artworks for the roundabouts, the Bend City Council has agreed to allow murals in the Makers District close to downtown Bend. Commissioner Doug Knight was the lone vote against the resolution citing concerns about content.

The Day We All Looked Up By Kaycee Anseth
The Day We All Looked Up By Kaycee Anseth

Through a cohesive collaboration led by the Arts, Beautification and Culture Commission (ABC) of the City of Bend, volunteers championed a revision of language for an amendment of the sign code allowing murals to be painted in the Makers District. The Makers District, which runs from Greenwood to Olney between First and Second Streets, is prime retail for the large scale paintings in mural form and the ideal place to launch a mural festival.

The art world — a realm populated by masterpieces often hailed for their antagonistic, controversial and taboo uniqueness — regularly defies ‘suggested’ standards of decency and good taste in the fight for freedom of expression. Throughout history works of art have been altered, silenced and even erased due to unacceptable content, whether the motivations for censorship were religious, social or political.

“ART can be a tool, a mirror, a song,
a love letter, a prayer.
When it is in a public space,
it can be all of those things on a wider scale, connecting even more people.
It engages folks to where they are much more than an expanse of brick wall,
viewing art makes you present
while simultaneously transporting you.”
~ Kaycee Anseth, Tin Pan Alley Artist

Fear of the contemplated content is a ridiculous reason to not have murals, which will enhance a once blighted industrial area with bleak walls with vibrant works of art. From the well-established Tin Pan Alley art collection created by Visit Bend to an envisioned High Desert Mural Festival, public art is quickly gaining steam in Bend. The Tin Pan collection, which includes fabric, metal work and mixed media, supports the creativity of local artists and has been welcomed for its enhancement of the alley.

“We’ve been looking at the mural opportunity for a few years now,” Matt Schiffman, chair of the ABC told us before the council considered the code change. “It’s an important move towards not only making art accessible to everyone, but to beautifying the industrial parts of Bend.”

Schiffman highlighted the economic factor for creating a mural festival especially during the shoulder seasons like fall and spring when there are less outdoor activities. Local businesses including hotels, restaurants, retailers and galleries can reap the benefits of an influx of art tourism.

Douglas Robertson, the executive director for the newly formed High Desert Mural Festival (HDMF), echoes this sentiment and hopes Bend will eventually be known nationally for its mural festival. Robertson created the Midtown Art Alley, a concept space for public art that he hopes will act as a small artistic venue. The alleyway, located at NE Franklin Ave. and NE Greeley between Fourth and Fifth Streets, is set on private land that he donated and boasts 50, 25 and 15 foot walls, that already host works of art.

Robertson’s goal is to have these walls painted over with new artwork every two months. “I want to keep the conversation rolling by having this space be active and dynamic.”
The mural approval will give Bend yet another opportunity via art to “provoke, inspire, create debates and educate.” Allowing new artists to exhibit their art in this unique way, exemplifies the need for this creative art form in Central Oregon.

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