Aug. 10, 2019 — The most significant example of public art in Florence was on full display at Wednesday’s long-anticipated dedication of the “Stitching Time” mural on the corner of Quince Street and Highway 126.
A crowd of over 100 turned out for the ceremony, including Chief Warren Brainard of the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw, and Catherine Rickbone, Executive Director for the Oregon Coast Council of the Arts, along with senior members of City of Florence staff.
Master of Ceremonies for the dedication was Florence Mayor Joe Henry, who offered praise and appreciation for the effort by all of the participants involved in the project.
Public response and debate on the “Stitching Time” mural has been both mixed and at times heated, with differing opinions regarding the content and placement of the mural propelling the subject of what constitutes good art — and ultimately whether the city should be involved in the purchase and placement of art.
Kari Westlund from Travel Lane County was on hand for the ceremony and said she believes the mural is a great addition to the attractions offered in this area.
“It was nice to see such a great turnout to celebrate the new mural. It is hard work to accomplish big community projects and Florence has many underway,” Westlund said. “I can’t remember a time in the last 25 years where I’ve sensed as much momentum, civic pride and optimism. It really feels different, from the new City Hall and public art projects, to the new streetscape.
“Florence is looking and feeling like a place that is cared for by its residents. That makes it an even better visitor destination and I’m certain that visitors will reflect that pride and enthusiasm during and after their stay. Congratulations to all the organizations working so hard to make Florence look and feel so good.”
Henry made a brief opening statement praising the work done by the Public Art Committee and thanking the artists, Angelina Marino and Joel Heidel, for their work and turned the microphone over to the Chairperson of the Public Arts Committee, Harlen Springer.
Springer and City Councilman Joshua Greene have been deeply involved in the multi-year process to bring art to the city as part of an expanding overall public art program. Springer quickly recapped the process used to arrive at this point in the mural’s creation, focusing on the many culturally affiliated elements of the two panels of the piece.
“Thanks to the hard work and dedication of Public Art Committee members which started four years ago with a vision to celebrate art and integrate art into the community, this is our tenth project — and what we believe will be a valuabe part of stimulating economic activity by making our city more vibrant,” Springer said. “Thanks to all who helped us, especially the City Council and staff, our Public Works department, FURA, Central Lincoln PUD, Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians, and a special thanks to the Oregon Community Foundation for the grant to help us pay for it all.”
The artist responsible for the design and content of the mural, Angelina Marino, spoke briefly, thanking the Public Art Committee and the City Council for the opportunity to contribute to Florence’s public art collection. Marino said she was initially surprised by the controversy surrounding the work but has been pleased with the response of the public now that the mural has been finished.
Rickbone, who has been involved with the development of the Public Art Program in Florence for a number of years, told the audience she was very happy with the results.
“Harlen Springer called me four or five years ago. We knew each other from FRAA and other art-related organizations. He reached out and said a Public Art Committee was being formed, and that they would like to pick my brain to get some ideas on how to proceed,” Rickbone explained. “So, we provided some documentation and some advice — and now to see the mural on the wall, years later, is very exciting.
“I was really happy with the great community interest and it was very nice to see that many people attend the dedication.”
Perhaps the most meaningful moment of the dedication took place during the ribbon-cutting ceremony when both Greene and Henry put aside past personal differences and warmly shook hands to the delight, surprise and applause of the crowd.
State Representative for District Nine, Caddie McKeown, was unable to attend the dedication but forwarded remarks that Springer read to the crowd. He explained that McKeown supports the idea that public art can be an economic driver for Florence and other communities within her district.
“Public art is especially important in small towns. It not only enriches the aesthetic of our communities for visitors and locals alike to enjoy but requires that leaders and community members come together to craft a plan to make their shared home more beautiful,” McKeown said in her statement. “Under the leadership of the Florence Public Arts Commission, this community has done just that. You should be proud of the collaboration and history that this mural represents, and I am so sad I had to miss its dedication ceremony today.
“This mural will communicate to those who view it a sense of what Florence values as a community — the 85-year-old Siuslaw River bridge and its vital function as a gateway to the ocean, the local flora and fauna that make Florence one of the most beautiful destinations on the West Coast, and the deep-rooted cultural traditions of the Native Americans. Congratulations on a wonderful addition to your community.”