Talent mural project gains some speed

TALENT — A paint-by-numbers community mural project will move ahead more rapidly than anticipated because city officials will look at a way to work around the town's sign code.

When the mural first was proposed by Talent participants in a joint Ford Family Foundation leadership training class with Phoenix, city leaders said a major revision of the sign ordinance, which governs such art, would be needed.

Besides facing a lengthy timeline, the group would have needed to raise $1,000 to cover city costs for staff time and hearings involving several commissions before the City Council could consider the changes.

City Planner Mark Knox now is drafting an amendment to the current sign ordinance that would allow the council to approve art installations.

"We really appreciate that offer to get this (mural project) moving," said Michelle Glass of the leadership group.

"What we are trying to do ... is basically say that the City Council would need to approve any art project," said Mayor Bill Cecil. "If the City Council approves, it doesn't have to come under the sign ordinance."

The mural will depict what makes Talent different from surrounding towns, said artist Karen Rycheck, a member of the leadership group. Community input on the mural is being sought.

"I've been setting up over at the Friday evening market every week and collecting ideas from the community," Rycheck said.

"We'll go into the schools," she said. "We'll have a float in the Harvest Festival parade and a spot where people can paint a foam mural to give us illustrated ideas."

With the input, Rycheck will create a design for the mural that will be considered by the leadership group and then the City Council.

Rather than paint the side of a building, the mural will be created on a number of panels using a paint-by-number approach to allow anyone in the community to participate. Panel murals have been done elsewhere, said Rycheck.

Painting would be done over the winter with installation in the spring.

"Because businesses change hands and buildings change hands, we thought it would be nice to be able to save it and move it if that occurs," Rycheck said.

Building owners interested in hosting the mural can find a request for proposal on the Phoenix Talent Community Project page on Facebook.

"Our goal is for this to be the first of many murals in town," said Glass. "We wanted to have a chance so that everyone could be considered for a mural site."

Neither the leadership group nor the city has given up on revising the sign ordinance.

"We are still committed to working on a long-term solution for public art in Talent," said Glass. "It's not a good use of the City Council and mayor's time to approve each project."

There's currently a city Art Committee. But Cecil said the role of that committee will be considered as well as ordinance revision.

"We'll have to decide whether the committee is the way to go, or if we need an Arts Commission," said Cecil.

The Ford Family Foundation matches donations toward leadership group projects up to $5,000. The Phoenix contingent will build a bandstand in Blue Heron Park. A music, poetry and magic show to benefit both projects is set for 7 p.m. Sept. 24 at the Rose Street Theater in Phoenix.

Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com.

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