Springfield, Ore. –
March 22, 2013
Oxen haul covered wagons beneath a larger-than-life American flag. Isosceles mountains stand out from the buffalo skin scene, landscapes and Oregon skies shining through. A cowboy on his mount blows a bugle, the adventurous pioneer’s signal to awaken the camp and begin the day’s trek. Elk, deer, and bison are hunted to clothe and feed the travelers, a skill shared by Native American tribes. Beginning in Independence, Missouri, the 2,000-mile journey takes emigrants through Fort Laramie, Chimney Rock, rafting down the Columbia, and past Mount Hood.
Painted by Ann Woodruff Murray, this is a scene within the mural decorating the east side of the Springfield, Oregon Emerald Art Center. Murray was commissioned by the city in 1993 to promote its beautification program. It’s easy to tell why this moment is 120 feet long and 32 feet high—it is a clear representation of Oregonian history. Throughout our state, many museums and historical sites are dedicated to the Oregon Trail and our beginnings over 150 years ago.
Today, there are twenty murals in downtown Springfield. They depict anything from a restaurant scene to fishing in the McKenzie river. For a 5-block span in a city with a population of almost 60 thousand, that’s a lot of art. The murals were commissioned by the Springfield Arts Commission as it took on its beautification project, which includes sculptures as well as the murals. Their brochure shows the locations of these pieces of art, and every second Friday, Springfield hosts an Art Walk.
Glenn Myers, resident of Springfield and owner of Trash-n-Treasures Antiques and Collectibles, thinks the murals brighten up the city. His favorite mural is the Ann Woodruff Murray painting. “Every time you look at it, you see something different,” says Myers. “I wish I had [a mural] on my shop!”
The mural Draft Horse Logging, painted by D. Brent Burkett in 2000, features two muscular steeds, and in the background the log they are hauling, as well as their logger, are visible. Logging has always been a part of Oregon culture, and today, 150 years later, we are still known for our evergreen forestry. Idaho is to potatoes as Oregon is to pine trees: even the image on our most common car license plate is a tree graphic, while others such as salmon, Crater Lake, and wine country can be spotted—in the past, Oregon used to offer covered wagon-themed plates, as well.
This is Oregon. Shown by our plates, these are themes depicted in the Springfield murals. Each mural depicts a different aspect of what it means to be an Oregonian, but together, they represent our pioneered, new world, salmon fishing, evergreen, west coast culture.