There is a new pop of color in downtown Madras this week as a mural, sponsored by Travel Oregon and the Central Oregon Visitors Association, goes up on the side of the building at the corner of Fifth and C streets.
Bend artist Karen Eland is painting the mural, which will depict the stages of the 2017 solar eclipse over the top of the landscape from Cove Palisades State Park.
Originally from Oklahoma, Eland said that she has painted murals in the past, some in Oklahoma, some in Bend and even Seattle. She wanted to do more of them, so when the call to artists was sent out, she answered it.
She said she is actually known for her creative method of painting with coffee and even beer, though she is using paint for this project.
The mural project was set to produce two murals a year in eight Central Oregon communities, according to Matt Wagner, the curator for the mural project who is contracted through Travel Oregon out of Portland. He is unsure what the next step will be as the first two projects come to a close in Warm Springs and Madras.
He said while the project is intended to last four years, as a second leg to the statewide mural trail Travel Oregon produced several years ago with animated art from "Oregon, Only Slightly Exaggerated," his contract with Travel Oregon is only one year at a time.
The idea with all the murals, including one in Prineville, is a personal, community-oriented marketing campaign to promote tourism in small towns like Madras.
Eland said that when she was asked to do the project, she wanted to find something to paint that really represented the community, so she started brainstorming that with Wagner.
"What are some things that tie to Madras?" she recalled asking herself. The answer? The eclipse.
She said when she goes into a project, she likes to have a plan to achieve the end result, though she said some artists prefer to go in and just paint.
Eland said she spends time gathering reference photos, and for the Madras project she did a smaller painting and sketch of what she wanted the project to be.
Then, she said, chuckling, "(You) buy a lot of paint and start layering it on there."
"It's fun," she said. "I like to share beauty with people."
"I wanted to do like 50 things when I was a kid, and I landed on art," she said.
If the weather cooperates, Eland said she is planning to have the mural finished in the next few days.
"I am really thankful that the timing worked out that I can still create something beautiful in this crazy time we are in," she said, adding that pieces like her project can often bring hope for people.
"I think we are living in an age where the way people do marketing, it is an attraction based, and not a real human connection," Wagner said on the importance of projects like these. He said he really likes what Eland chose to paint for the Madras mural.
He said the project offers a personal approach to marketing a small town, especially in this case where he is only allowed to commission works from Central Oregon artists.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.