Saving Silverton’s murals: Society urgently needs members

March 2020 Posted in Arts, Culture & History, News

By Brenna Wiegand

Silverton Mural Society is in desperate need of volunteers to help maintain its collection of historical, hand-painted murals that have become part of the charm of Silverton and a legitimate tourist attraction.

Silverton Mural Society finds itself without a president, vice president or treasurer and ten-year volunteer Norm English is the acting secretary.

“We cannot continue to exist in this manner,” English said. “There are a number of specific tasks that need doing on an ongoing basis, and if they are no longer done, the murals will soon be in a state of decline. Most everyone I’ve talked to does not want this to happen, but without people willing to help with what needs doing, it appears unavoidable – and that would be a real shame.”

The 30-plus murals gracing the exteriors of buildings around town are estimated at an overall value of $500,000. Most of the funds for this year’s touch-ups and maintenance are covered thanks to donations by Friends of the Murals.

“[I]t’s just the actual bodies that are needed to perform the associated tasks and administrative duties that will keep the non-profit organization afloat,” English said. “Without that help, it will not be long before viewers of the murals will begin to notice the difference. Murals need regular, ongoing maintenance.”

Fearless leader Vince Till, who has spearheaded the murals and their maintenance for more than a quarter century, has found it necessary to step down in order to be home more with his wife Babs, who is experiencing health problems.

At one time or another over the past 27 years, Till has performed most of the myriad tasks necessary to keep the murals in pristine condition for decades to come. He is passionate about Silverton’s murals and was instrumental in commissioning most of them, all done by local artists.

It will take many people to help fill the void Till leaves, but luckily there’s something for everyone. Available tasks include:

• Participating in the annual mural-washing.

• Replenishing mural society post cards and books around town.

• Putting up and taking down flags on certain holidays.

• Maintaining flower beds at two murals during growing season.

• Generate a quarterly newsletter for members and donors.

• Routinely check murals for damage.

• Greet folks at the mural society booth at special events.

• Help apply UV coating on selected murals each year.

• Conduct mural tours for visitors and schoolchildren.

• Write grants and raise funds.

• Help move scaffolding during touch-up season.

It costs an annual $10,000 to $14,000 to maintain the murals.

“Silverton’s collection represents a half-million-dollar investment in the community,” English said. “That’s a lot of money to protect.”

“The murals are such an engaging part of what brings visitors to our community,” Stacy Palmer, Silverton Chamber of Commerce Executive Director, said. “I’d hate to see the mural society fade away.”

“I just know there are creative, passionate people in our community who just don’t realize they could fill a void and make such a wonderful impact on our community,” English said. “I hope folks step up.”

Over the years, English has helped secure grants from the Oregon Community Foundation, Homer Davenport Community Festival, Mount Angel Oktoberfest, Judy’s Party and the City of Silverton Tourism Promotion Committee.

“These funds need to be requested on an ongoing basis,” English said. “If these funding sources stop and others do not replace them then maintenance also stops.”

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