In the community

Meeting produces information, possible path forward to restore Vale murals

VALE – The murals mounted on buildings in town are an important element to Vale and need to be preserved but finding a way to fund repairs of the artwork and get more community involvement will be challenges.
That was the consensus of those who met Nov. 14 at the Vale Seniors Community Center to develop ideas about the future of Vale’s signature tourist attraction. The Vale Heritage Reflections Mural Society organized the event.
The session, moderated by Les Zaitz, Malheur Enterprise publisher, attracted about 30 people.
The condition of many of the murals, created in the early 1990s, triggered the session.
The first mural was painted by artist Don Gray in 1993 and 31more were added. Now though, many of the murals are beginning to fade and need extensive renovation.
Zaitz themed the meeting as a “conversation” regarding a future road map for the murals.
The murals attract plenty of people, said Terri Doran, owner of the Vale Liquor Store.
“The railroad mural right next to me, I am constantly seeing people pull up and look at it. As a business person, the murals are very important,” said Doran.
Several themes emerged from the meeting including the notion the murals are tied to Vale’s Oregon Trail heritage, are popular with visitors and are a crucial building block for the town’s future.
“It is a point of pride for us to have murals on both sides of our building. We want every mural to look great,” said Vale attorney Mike Mahoney.

Community members listen to the discussion at the Nov. 14 meeting focused on possibilities for preserving the iconic history murals in Vale. (The Enterprise/PAT CALDWELL)

One obstacle identified early on in the session was an apparent lack of interest in the future of the murals and the difficulty in collecting volunteers to get involved. The need for younger people to become members of the mural society was recognized as an especially acute challenge.

“Getting young people involved is tough,” said Vale resident Dennis Buttice.
When the Vale mural project started, the Vale Heritage Reflections Mural Society consisted of many people from a broad swath of the community.
Now there are just three or four members.
“We all want them but we need help. We can’t get anyone to participate. The mural society needs members,” said Sheri Nalivka, a mural society member.
Zaitz conceded the issue was a “financial and human resources challenge.”
“But we have an opportunity here. There is a ton of money out there,” said Zaitz and he pointed out Malheur County is in line to receive $12 million in new federal funding.
Now the cost to refurbish the murals is roughly $200,000. Zaitz said interested individuals should band together and seek the $200,000.
“We need to put together a plan and go for the whole thing,” said Zaitz.
John Breidenbach, president and chief executive officer of the Ontario Area Chamber of Commerce, told the group the murals attract visitors to the area.
“You have something to market – the Oregon Trail and the murals. You have your tourist draw,” he said.
Zaitz said the next step will be to “educate the community.”
“Let’s get the community chatter going,” he said.
A second meeting on the murals is scheduled for Dec. 19 at 7 p.m. at the Vale Senior Center. Zaitz asked each member in attendance last week to bring at least one person to the next session.
Meanwhile, Vale Mayor Tom Vialpando said he and city manager Todd Fuller would put together a list of possible funding sources for the mural work and deliver it at the Dec. 19 meeting.
Vialpando said he felt the meeting went well.
“We need to find some funding and I think there are different ways of funding,” he said.
Frank Yraguen, a longtime member of the mural society, said he felt the meeting went well.
“I was pleased with the turnout. I am very hopeful we can sort of enlarge and reorganize the mural society,” he said.
Yraguen said anyone can join the mural society and there is not cost.
To join the mural society interested individuals can contact Yraguen at 541-212-1715.

News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected].

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