Ontario's newest and largest mural. (Submitted photo)

ONTARIO – In the midst of the leisurely crowds of potato lovers at last weekend’s Tater Tot Festival was a group with focus.

Forest Wolf Kell, Bose One, Joshe Parke, Dreyfus Art, Bobby Gayton, and Evarett Carvajal are painters from Portland and Boise, and Saturday, Sept. 18, saw them spread out along 100-plus feet of wall, breathing life into what would become Ontario’s newest and largest mural. 

The mural says “Welcome to Ontario” with the city’s name in giant decorated letters. Each letter features a design from a different artist with a different color theme inside its sharply outlined contours.  

“It’s not a new concept,” said Kell, who helped manage the mural’s production. “It’s typically done with landmarks and such, so the letters are filled with landmarks or things that are specific to the community it’s in. Instead of landmarks or geographical things, we decided to have seven semi-local artists come out and give their take on each letter.”

The designs range in color from lilac purple to fire hydrant red to acid green and show a variety of figures, including a woman, a horse, a skull, a fish, butterflies, and several mystery cartoon creatures. 

The mural project was sponsored by Treasure Valley Cannabis Company, and is just the latest of its endeavors to turn downtown historic Ontario into a space full of public art. 

In 2019, prior to opening, the dispensary invested in two murals just down the street from the new installation, one on Vintage Rose and one on Aarestad Physical Therapy & Fitness Center. 

“We started with those two walls to kind of get our feet wet, and then that response was so good that we’ve kind of continued,” said Kell.

Chase Muromoto, Treasure Valley Cannabis Company’s director of marketing, said that the murals are only one facet of the company’s “Adopt Ontario” community service program, through which employees can volunteer their time. 

The company has also sponsored other art events.

“Last week we had an artist that came through and did pottery in the (dispensary) lobby,” said Muromoto. “It’s cool to bring different types of activity to the area that people aren’t usually used to.”

Muromoto said that he and his team all come from art backgrounds, which is part of why fostering an art scene in Ontario feels so important to them. 

“The way people perceive art in a city like Portland is really different from how people perceive art like this in a local community,” he said, describing Ontario residents as “so stoked” by the murals. 

“It’s our way of giving back and connecting with the community,” Muromoto said.

News tip? Contact reporter Liliana Frankel at [email protected] or 267-981-5577.

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