New murals pop up in downtown corridor

By Sarah Brown
Lebanon Local

Downtown Lebanon is receiving more color and small-town spirit as some of its buildings get a fresh display of murals painted by local artists. Initiated by the Lebanon Downtown Association, three new murals have already begun popping up this summer by Emily Ho’okano, Elise Porter, and Jesse Clayton and Ashley Crawford.

Clayton and Crawford are nearly finished with their mural at the Lebanon Liquor Store, 865 S. Main St., on its southern wall facing W. Maple Street.

Jesse Clayton’s original submission

“We’re doing an old farm truck to kind of represent the farm town of Lebanon and logging,” Clayton said.

Using paint brushes as well as spray paint, the design features a red 1940-style Chevrolet pickup with an American flag waving over its frame, and a backdrop of wildflowers, hay and grass fields, and trees of the Willamette.

Clayton has been drawing and painting since childhood. This is not his first mural, and certainly will not be the last.

“I love big murals and canvases,” he said. “I can express my feelings much more and it stands out from the rest of the millions of artists. It’s a hobby and my life; (it) keeps me grounded and happy.”

When he’s done with this particular mural, Clayton will begin on an interactive mural of angel wings to be placed at NW Fit, 600 S. Main St. (An interactive mural is one which allows the spectator to participate with it in some way. For example, a person standing in front of the angel wings will look like they’re the one with wings, and makes for a fun selfie.)

Paid for by NW Fit, the mural will also include iconic images of Lebanon including turkeys, strawberries and a water tower. Clayton said he is in negotiations with other businesses for murals, and wants to convince Rick Franklin to let him paint the northern water tower like a strawberry.

Jesse Clayton and Ashley Crawford pose in front of the mural they are working on at Lebanon Liquor Store.

His girlfriend, Crawford, is a nurse who also has been drawing and painting since childhood, a skill which she has evolved into work as a tattoo artist.

“(She’s) saving lives and permanently making art on people who want to cherish it forever,” Clayton said. “We both love creating art together and painting as many memories as we can; it’s what makes us unique and happy together.”

While their old truck painting sits on the southernmost end of the downtown corridor, Clayton said Porter’s mural located at the north end is a perfect spot for what she’s painting because it will greet people as they enter the city.

Porter’s mural on the northern wall of Bigfoot Grille, 525 S. Main St., will feature the city’s name containing images special to Lebanon, including mountains, a water tower, a strawberry, a turkey, the high school Warriors name, Kuhn name, and other city icons.

Ho’okano collaborated on the design with Porter, but gives Porter a majority of the credit, and Ryan Everhart helps the two work on the mural in their spare time. The goal, Porter said, is to have the project complete by the end of October.

A mockup of Elise Porter’s mural at Bigfoot Grille

Being Porter’s first mural, she might find the work a little intimidating, but is enjoying the process.

“It’s a very large, daunting task, but once you get your mindset into doing it, then it’s not quite so overwhelming,” she said.

The 30-year-old has “always loved art” and taken a variety of forms of art classes from middle school through college – including fine arts, band, photography and taxidermy – and has obtained an associate degree in drafting and design technology. Of all her artistic endeavors, drawing and painting are her most favorite, she said.

“I like art because it allows me to express how I feel about or see the world, and/or bring beauty and uniqueness to the world,” Porter said. “It gives me the feeling of excitement and curiosity when I see new art (in any form), and gives me new ideas on what I can do in my own art.”

Ryan Everhart, left, and Elise Porter work on painting the outline of the city’s name on the north-facing wall of Bigfoot Grille.

This year Porter started a Facebook page for local artists to connect. Her page is called Local Artists of Lebanon, and it’s where she met Ho’okano.

“I wanted it to be where it’s a community for all of us to get tips and ideas, or promote our own thing going on,” she said.

Having now contributed to the community by creating a social platform for local artists to gather, Porter is now contributing on a larger scale with her mural. It’s a mark, she hopes, that will last for years to come.

“I’m hoping it will be up here for quite a long time,” she said.

Ho’okano, who’s tasked with the third mural, also hopes her work will last at least a couple of decades. That’s because, she said, she wants to bring her son, who’s currently 1, back to the wall when he’s old enough to understand her contribution to the community.

Her artwork, located on the southern wall of Hazella Bake Shop, 878 S. Main St., depicts strawberries and baked goods atop a pink backdrop and polka dots. Hazella owner Michael Kerrigone said he’s been wanting a mural on that wall and considered contracting out an artist to do one.

A mockup of Emily Ho’okano’s mural at Hazella Bakery

“I’m super excited about it. It definitely brightens up the downtown for sure,” Kerrigone said. “It totally came to us, totally undeserved. That’s why I love this community. I love the people. We love living here and being a part of this community. It’s just another gift, just the relentless goodness of Lebanon to us.”

Ho’okano said she started painting about 15 years ago while she was in high school, and continued through college and university. She has focused on anatomy, shading and realism, and also does digital painting.

“I usually seem to always kind of lean more toward realistic (art), but I try not to make it too realistic because I like to put my own style into it,” she said.

Ho’okano said art “grounds” her.

“I don’t realize it until I’m in the zone, but overall it makes me feel calm and productive and proud of what I can make.”

Originally, Ho’okano had submitted a design of a two-layer strawberry shortcake with the polka dot background, but later learned her “canvas” was much larger than anticipated. She said that since it was located on the bakery building, she would include a croissant and a spoonful of whipped cream and strawberry, in addition to the shortcake.

An idea for an interactive mural submitted by Jennifer Pulliam

Two more murals were selected for the project. Jennifer Pulliam suggested an interactive mural of butterfly wings, and Alexander Keyes submitted his design of musicians. LDA President Shellie Jackola said those are planned to be painted next summer.

As part of its many functions to revitalize Lebanon’s downtown business area, the LDA brought forth the idea to erect the murals.

In February 2021, then LDA manager Cassie Cruze shared with city council the group’s plan to put murals on downtown businesses through partnerships with Lowe’s and Linn-Benton Community College. Ideas she presented included a paint-by-number piece that the community could help paint, and an interactive mural.

In September 2021, the city council approved the transition of the function of the Arts Commission from the City of Lebanon to the Lebanon Downtown Association. LDA would receive a one-time fund of $8,000 for the work associated with the transition. One of the functions of the arts commission was to maintain a rotating display of artboards in Strawberry Plaza.

Cruze’s mural ideas never came to fruition, but current Jackola said she took over the chair position on the LDA design team in January 2023 and started working on the idea. In May, the group rolled out a contest soliciting artwork for consideration and selected the five mural designs from approximately 30 submissions received.

While the artists donated their own time to paint the murals, paint for the project was provided free of charge by Benjamin Moore and Summit Ace Home & Garden. Clayton also received donations of materials and supplies for the three murals from Ashley Renee Tattoo, Gillott Home Team – Keller Williams Realty Mid-Willamette, Lebanon Liquor Store, Linn-Co Federal Credit Union and Seeds Italian Bistro.

“You wouldn’t believe the amount of people who stopped and talked to me and wanted to help,” Clayton said. “It was amazing and so cool.”

Alexander Keyes’ winning mural design, which is planned to be painted next year