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May-18-2010 13:06printcomments

Making Salem a Mecca of Murals

Let us not go around in civic circles, ending up in the same place. Murals provide momentum, and it's high time to climb aboard.

Elsinore Theatre
The Elsinore Theatre in Salem, Oregon's historic downtown is
a long time landmark. Photo by Bonnie King

(SALEM, Ore.) - What art thy future plans, Salem? Do consider a proliferation of Public Art as the perfect vehicle to help upgrade the city's image throughout the Far West... and nationwide.

My various travels have met up with public confusion of what Salem, OR is all about. Far too often we get mistaken for Salem, Mass. But we are not that same Witch Territory, although we may have a few goblins of our own.

We certainly deserve our very own identity.

To nobody's surprise, we are earmarked also as the seat of state government. Year after year our phonebook covers display the State Capitol. And local tv stations gravitate in that same direction as though they are fixated on that icon. Yes, we are our state capital--but much more as well.

People who visit us often frequent our downtown first. And our downtown, consisting mainly of many turn-of-the-century buildings, is ripe for a gradual facelift. This is the 21st Centiry after all!

A great place to begin is to encourage attractive wall murals. And since our City of Salem does derive its name from the Biblical term for "peace", Shalom, let's commission a peace mural in a prominent place to showcase our fair city. Let's have our young people help make that design, in part as a counterpoint to graffiti.

Either the Ike Box or the Cottage St. side of the YMCA are ideal.

Other potential sites that could be considered: The north side of the old Capitol Theatre wall on State St., facing the Marion County Courthouse; the south side of the Travel Salem building on High St., or the inside window of our Greyhound Bus Depot, now painted a drab off-white. Any and all of these locations could benefit from murals to spark up our community at large.

In addition, our existing mural at Peace Plaza near City Hall and the renowned old movies mural on the back of the Elsinore Theatre can tell their stories on the city's website. So too might we want to create brochures that feature Eco Earth and the multiple statues adorning Willson Park next to the State Capitol. And let us not forget the varied personas of those horses that inhabit the colorful Carousel at Riverfront Park.

Let us not go around in civic circles, ending up in the same place. Murals provide momentum, and it's high time to climb aboard.


Salem-News.com Community Writer Barry Lee Coyne brings to our readers stories from his combined career of journalism and gerontology, and explains that these paths shaped his values. Lee Coyne once worked for The Civil Service Leader in NY State and covered the Legislature. He has also done features on mediation and arbitration, and believes in healthy skepticism. This writer-therapist often views the world as the masks of comedy and tragedy placed upon the scales of justice. For him, optimism inevitably wins. "Lyrical Lee" has traveled to 30 nations aboard and was once a press intern at the UN. His first published article was in The NY Daily News in '59, dealing with the need for integrity in public office.

He also launched the nation's first tele-conference on health education for shut-ins, created the Eldermentors project in VA to pair retirees with immigrant students needing role models, and was the main catalyst behind CCTV's "Public Public" panel show here in Salem. Lee received his BA in International Relations and an MSW in community organization. He currently serves as a member of Salem's Library Advisory Board. To send Lee an email, please write to this address: luckycoyne@yahoo.com

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