Oregon City approves installation of first Native mural
On June 1, tribal artist Brian Krehbiel kicked off painting a large mural at a major gateway to downtown Oregon City with a ceremonial chant while drumming.
Krehbiel, a member of the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde, is painting the 75-by-19-foot mural across the street from the tribe's property at the former Blue Heron Paper Co. mill at the intersection of Main Street and Highway 99E (McLoughlin Boulevard). The mural on the side of White Rabbit Books & Gifts/Black Ink Coffee will depict the tribal story of how Coyote and Meadowlark created Willamette Falls.
Krehbiel said Coyote and Meadowlark were carrying a rope between them to determine the location of the falls, but a language barrier between the two prevented them from dropping the rope until they sped north nearly to the Clackamas River. They originally had envisioned the waterfall near present-day Salem.
Other elements of the mural include a heron sacred to the Native people, a Native dancer that Krehbiel said represents his excitement in completing the piece and a Welcoming Pole traditional to larger Native villages showing a figure holding up its hands in a gesture of "holding visitors in the highest regard," the artist told Pamplin Media Group.
Krehbiel hopes that the mural will be interactive: Standing in a doorway on McLoughlin will allow visitors to "pretend you're fishing with a Native" person, while people sitting in the coffee-shop window will intentionally appear to be sitting in the mural's canoe. This mural will be the first by a Native artist as part of Oregon City's new public-art program.
Oregon City's Art Commission approved the Three Rivers Artist Guild-sponsored mural on May 19, in a project funded by an $18,690 Metro Enhancement grant. About half of the funding went to restoring the wall, and the other half is going to the artist, thanks to in-kind donations from Sherwin Williams, Party Factory Events and Pioneer Rental.
"This has been an amazing community effort," said Trieste Andrews, a Three Rivers Artist Guild representative.
Krehbiel, 42, grew up at the base of Spirit Mountain and has lived in Grand Ronde and Willamina for most of his life, according to Smoke Signals, the tribe's independent newspaper. He attended schools in Willamina as well as Noli Indian School near Palm Springs, California.
Smoke Signals reported that Krehbiel began taking his first Grand Ronde cultural education classes in 1998, when he was 18. He learned about Native plants and processing, weaving, carving and tool making. For the next 10 years, he sought to learn as much as possible from tribal elders and instructors.
"It was an exciting time," he told Smoke Signals. "Now, I love to share this teaching with people who want to strengthen their connection to the tribe."
White Rabbit business owner Danielle Walsh told Pamplin Media Group that her bookstore and gift shop tries to support local and tribal artists through curating its selections.
"We love the idea of a mural that says welcome to the tribal property that's located next door," Walsh said.
Krehbiel said his chanting and drumming piece was called "Tradewinds," referring to the teachings that can be gleaned in the winds. As traffic rushed by the mural site on the state highway, he wanted to "pray that everyone who is driving by this mural makes it safely on their way."
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