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Mural takes shape

Outside wall of the Ashland Emergency Food Bank will soon be filled with colors of the seasons
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Artist Denise Baxter works on a mural on the side of the Ashland Emergency Food Bank on Monday afternoon. Helping her will be Southern Oregon University art majors Jose Rivera, Erin Gilpin, Jonna Robertson, Holly Zieman and Natalie Blaustone-Dye. Julia Moore / Daily TidingsJulia Moore
 Posted: 2:00 AM June 25, 2014

A large mural depicting the seasons, nature and a sense of community will be painted over the next three weeks on a 52-by-18-foot outside wall of the Ashland Emergency Food Bank.

Made possible by philanthropists Barry and Kathryn Thalden, the painting will comprise four panels to represent the four seasons. In addition to animals, flowers and fruit, each panel will show Ashland residents relaxing, enjoying the beauty of local nature and community and taking part in the cycles of agriculture, says artist Denise Baxter, executive director of Ashland Art Center. (Correction: The names of the donors has been added to this story.)

Baxter this week is sketching out her painting on the west wall, using a grid that allows her and five art majors from Southern Oregon University to execute the piece, grid by grid, using ordinary latex house paint.

"The philanthropist approached me to do the painting, and I suggested ideas involving foliage, hills, local creatures, fields, the lake and ponds and people working together," says Baxter. "The board of the Food Bank approved it. I love it, the whole project.

"I started the Ashland Art Center, so I'm not afraid to go for it and make a fool of myself," she jokes. "It's going to be a big challenge."

Winter shows a couple warming themselves by a fire at Emigrant Lake, under an owl and full moon. Spring shows people planting seeds in a field, with colorful flowers, dragonfly and Pilot Rock. Summer has a family wading in the Fairy Ponds of upper Ashland Creek, with a monarch butterfly in the sky. Fall depicts a hand-holding couple overlooking fields at harvest time, in the shadow of Mount McLoughlin. Ashland city ordinances don't allow the painting to portray or promote the business inside, so, except for a lone apple and pear, the idea of food is not in the painting.

The artists will work from a set of six paint swatches of colors approved by the city. The colors can be made lighter or darker by adding black or white, Baxter explained. Helping her will be SOU students Jose Rivera, Erin Gilpin, Jonna Robertson, Holly Zieman and Natalie Blaustone-Dye.

"We are so excited to host this amazing piece of art, and see its creation over three weeks," says Pam Marsh, food bank executive director and city councilwoman. "It conveys the same sense of joy we see inside. It captures our history, agriculture and is people-oriented. It shows how we live and work together within the beauty of the natural landscape. It's the biggest painting in town by a long shot."

Marsh invites residents to come and watch the painting blossom. The process will be captured by a videographer and edited down to a brief, time-lapse movie. The painting will be dedicated in a ceremony later this summer.

"It's such a great, affirming story and will entirely mark the food bank and be an attraction for the city," says Marsh, noting it's visible from the Highway 66 overpass.

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at

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