Area artists unveil work at inaugural Strawberry Plaza art board exhibit

The first Strawberry Plaza painting exhibits were unveiled Jan. 3 as the result of the Lebanon 2040 Vision.

Following the formation of an arts commission last year, four artists were selected to present a 4- by 8-foot work of art for exhibition on the plaza’s walls. The art boards will have a rotation with new artists throughout the year.

“That way, when you come to the plaza, there is almost always something new to look at,” said Gary Marks, city manager, at the unveiling.

The following artists created their work free of charge.

Alisha B. Whitman
When Alisha Whitman of Lebanon first started painting, she painted “European stuff,” but soon realized it didn’t mean anything to her because she wasn’t there; so she started focusing on what’s more familiar and meaningful to her at home.

“I get most of my inspiration for my art from our local scenery,” Whitman said. “We are so blessed to live in such a gorgeous space.”
The scene she depicted for her mural in Strawberry Plaza was inspired by a fortuitous moment when she witnessed light piercing through an impending storm at Peterson Butte.

“There was a storm coming over from Corvallis and there was a storm coming over from the mountains, and they were just about to hit, but before they hit there was this gorgeous light shining through,” she said. “Despite those storms coming in, there was this moment of hope and light. It really struck me.”

Whitman usually creates smaller paintings that she sells, and will soon be teaching classes at Albany Art Studio. This is her first public presentation.

Tammie Atwood
Tammie Atwood of Lebanon unveiled a mural that portrays “the majestic steelhead” of the South Santiam River.

“This piece is something that I did that reminds me of my children out playing at the river and having fun, and just hanging out on the river between Sweet Home and here,” she said.

Atwood moved to Lebanon from Birkenfeld 1½ years ago after falling in love with the area from visits. Now that her children are in college, she said she has more time to explore this “magical world” through art.

“I feel like I have this new sense of freedom to explore who I am and what the world means to me,” she said. “I am discovering that while art has always been important to me, it is now more than I could have imagined.”

Atwood is currently putting together a collection of paintings using acrylic on canvas, and is exploring the use of metals in her work, she said. This is the first time Atwood has displayed her art publicly.

Rachel Urista
Rachel Urista of Corvallis obtained inspiration from time spent near the Luckiamute and Willamette rivers for her mural project titled, “The Luckiamute.”

She used colors that evoke for her its flora and fauna, and other natural things that surrounded her at the rivers. Urista said she equates colors with memories, emotions and sensations.

“In the spring, countless shades of green pop up all around, and I look forward to seeing the deep purple wild delphiniums rising from the soil and blooming,” she said. “As the seasons change, the colors continue to stun the senses. Deepening gray skies and rich fall color palettes move in.”

Urista used “large gestural sweeps of color,” and penciling and texture to capture the wonder and beauty of the rivers and meadows, she said. Creating foot-long flowers for the mural was particularly enjoyable for her.

“I hope that this painting will also bring you that sense of joy and invigorating feeling when spring comes around in the valley,” she said.

Urista teaches graphic design in Salem and at Linn-Benton Community College. Her work has been on display at art shows in Oregon, California, Colorado and New York, and has been published in print and online.

Eileen Hinckle
Oregon native Eileen Hinckle created a painting for Strawberry Plaza that touches both Lebanon’s history as well as strawberry workers around the world.

Since she currently resides in Peru, her father, Peter Hinckle, read a statement from her.

“This painting is dedicated to the strawberries and the men and women who worked in the fields. Though they play a very important role in this society, their work is under-appreciated. The image is inspired by the effort and dedication of these people, and the theme of their visibility and day to day life in American towns. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them for their hard work.”

Eileen has murals along the entire coast of South America and in the United States, including five in Corvallis.

The art boards on display are currently up for auction and can be big on by contacting Leigh Matthews-Bock at (541) 258-4253. Proceeds will be split between the artist and the Art Commission.