“This is a wall that doesn’t separate, that brings people together in joy and peace and love,” said Barry Thalden of the mural he and his wife, Kathryn, have commissioned on the wall on the west side of the Sesame Asian Kitchen restaurant at the entrance to Calle Guanajuato. 

Speaking of the entrance off Winburn Way to the Calle, Kathryn referred to it as currently a "big blank" that needed adornment, so — given that “Barry sees murals everywhere” — they decided to go to Ashland’s sister city, Guanajuato, to seek out a mural artist. 

They found her in Laura Rangel Villasenor, known professionally as Loreta.

The Thaldens — who previously paid for a large mural on the side of the Ashland Food Bank on Clover Lane — presented a proposal to the Public Art Commission about the mural in December 2015. Since then, they received the sign off of the Ashland Historic Commission and city planning clearance.

Artist Denise Baxter, who painted the mural at the Food Bank, will oversee the technical components of the design and color palette, as well as proper wall preparation. Southern Oregon University art students will also assist Villasenor. 

The Amigo Club also threw in their support for the mural, saying it better connects the cities, which already have relationships through city channels and the universities in both towns. The club now hopes to one day have an Ashland artist create a mural in Guanajuato’s Paseo de Ashland.

Councilor Pam Marsh, executive director of the Food Bank, described a feeling of joy and gratitude in being able to see Baxter’s mural on its wall. “It brings beauty and joy," Marsh said. "We’re creating another wonderful sense of space.”

The City Council unanimously approved the project (Mayor John Stromberg was in Washington, D.C., and missed the meeting).

“It’s a great addition for this part of town. I can’t wait to see what you have in mind for the Elks Building,” chuckled Councilor Mike Morris, referring to another large, blank wall in the downtown area. 

In giving a resounding "yes" to the mural project, councilors also directed staff to allocate money covering the waived $1,012 permit fee. The Thaldens are paying all other costs for the public art project. 

Councilors thanked the Thaldens for their gift.

“I love that this wall is very different than the wall touted in national news,” said Councilor Carol Voisin, referring to a proposal by a presidential candidate to increase the size of a wall separating the U.S. and Mexico. 

The goal is to have the 53-foot long by 24-foot high mural finished by the Fourth of July when a delegation of visitors from Guanajuato come to celebrate Independence Day with Ashland. 

With the fee waiver and all other processes complete, including a final sign-off by the Public Art Commission on Friday for an updated version of the mural with the city's landmark cathedral at the forefront, the artist is expected to get working shortly so she can finish in time. Arrangements have been made to work with the Lithia Artisans Market to avoid interruption of its weekly sale on the Calle.

Email Ashland freelance writer Julie Akins at akinsj@sou.edu and follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/@julieakins.