Mural artist Lilli Ann Rosenberg leaves a lasting legacy

Noted mosaic-ceramic muralist Lilli Ann Rosenberg of the Applegate left an enduring legacy of nature-themed artworks all over the Rogue Valley and on the East Coast when she died Tuesday, three days short of her 87th birthday.

Her works, many of them done with her late husband, Marvin Rosenberg, can be viewed at La Clinica Health Care, Jackson County Fairgrounds, Ruch Library, Ruch School, Southern Oregon State Police in Central Point, Medford Skate Park, the old C.K. Tiffen Restaurant on East Main in Medford and other spots.

After her husband's death in June 2010, Lilli Ann moved to Ashland. She died of cancer, at home. At her side were her children, Claire Van der Zwan, an artist and art teacher at Crater High School in Central Point and, from Portland, writer Gigi Rosenberg and artist Ben Rosenberg, who was married in Ashland two days before his mother's passing, so she could attend, he said.

Lilli Ann worked and taught art in New York City and Boston.

She created a 100-foot-long mural, which is still standing, at Boston's Park Street Subway station. She and her husband of 47 years moved 25 years ago to the Applegate, where Marvin retired from social work to join in her art, helping to create murals that would withstand the elements so they could be viewed by the general public instead of reposing in galleries, said Van der Zwan.

"She was brilliant, self-taught and figured out how to do this art form, using concrete and, with my dad, made them structurally sound," said Van der Zwan. "She was always a great storyteller, thinker and creator of art, deeply connected with nature and life."

Lilli wanted her art out in public "where people could appreciate and enjoy it," she said. "She wanted to reach all types of people. She worked right up till her death, talking about a sculpture she planned on the day before she passed away."

Jeremy Criswell of Ruch, who understudied Lilli for the past four years and was a close friend, said, "Her art was accessible to everyone. Children loved its simplicity and whimsey, while adults appreciated its beauty, balance and detail."

Rosenberg was widely noted for her all-inclusive sociability, often learning about and making long-term friends with those met casually, said Criswell.

"She shared her heart with everyone" and when she taught, "she was willing to teach everyone, without telling them how it should be done," Criswell said.

Lilli, said her daughter Gigi Rosenberg, began working with children in the late 1940s, teaching her mosaic-ceramic murals at Henry Street Settlement in New York's Lower East Side for 17 years and studying at Cooper Union.

"My mother was like a mayor, a real connector of people," said Gigi. "My parents loved a party, loved being with people and making art. If she met someone, she was compelled to get to know them."

Ben Rosenberg says his mother began teaching him her methods as a small child, "an incredible gift" that enabled him to go on to create murals on both coasts and teach art at the college level.

"Her gift was to not be afraid to try many things in creativity and art — to seek and explore and always take up challenges in everything that interests you," he said. "The legacy she left touched so many people around the world."

Criswell, he added, is the heir of her artistic vision and has already executed projects in the Rogue Valley.

A private memorial service is planned in August, the family said.

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at

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