May 30, 2019 — My wife and I were first exposed to Florence back in 2003. We were visiting friends on our way back to California after attending the summer Antique Expo in Portland. We immediately fell in love with Florence. We loved the small-town atmosphere and ambiance. A year later we purchased a house and moved to Florence permanently in 2005.
Florence has a lot of retired veterans, so I felt at home here, a lot of kindred spirits. We also felt safe here without too much outside agitation. Perhaps the biggest ruckus came from the Stillwater development, where buildings were being planned along the Old Town waterfront blocking everyone’s view.
Further development was eventually stopped; the citizens sure had their say when riled.
Fast forward to present day. We have a Public Art Committee (PAC) working diligently on “beautifying Florence.” While I commend the members for volunteering, committees sometimes miss the mark. The current proposal for a mural to be painted on the CLPUD building is more akin to what I feel is inner-city graffiti and does not represent Florence.
There are 11 members on this committee, plus two ex-officio members from the city. With a population of 8,466, these 13 committee members only represent .15 percent of Florence residents.
That’s a very, very small group that simply can’t represent the majority Florence.
I suppose there is some symbolism within the mural, but when folks drive into town for their vacations, they are headed to the dunes and camping sites. I don’t believe they will spend much time trying to sort out the abstract images. If anything, it could be more of a distraction. I would hope someone checked with ODOT (Oregon Department of Transportation) or city engineer to determine if the mural could be a safety issue due to being a distraction at an already complicated stretch of Highway 126.
The traveloregon.com website lists Oregon cities that have significant murals painted on their buildings (Trail of Murals). These scenes depict some aspect of Oregon that is clear and concise. You can’t miss the message. And you would want to visit those cities to experience what those murals are trying to convey.
The major theme is “Oregon is Magic.” These scenes depict our coastline’s grandeur: fishing, biking, horses running in eastern Oregon and our famous coastal lighthouses. What “magic”’ is going to be conveyed by the proposed abstract graffiti mural?
Here are some alternative mural themes that would better reflect Florence’s magic: Sand dunes with the side-by-side off-road utility vehicles (one of the many reasons folks visit Florence); Honor Frank Herbert, author of the book “Dune” (Herbert was inspired by the sand dunes of Florence to write his famous science fiction book); or how about representing our status as U.S. Coast Guard City and show one of the Coast Guard boats as it patrols the Siuslaw River with the dunes in the background?
There is still time. The proposed mural has not received final approval, which will be voted on at the April 1 City Council meeting (5:30 p.m. at the Florence Event Center).
Let the City Council members and City Manager Erin Reynolds know your opinion on the mural so they can make an informed vote. They can be reached via individual email or call City Recorder Kelli Weese at 541-997-3437 and let her know if you do not want the graffiti mural so she can present this information at Monday night’s City Council meeting. Or go directly to the Florence City Hall (250 Highway 101) and give your opinion in person. To contact any council member or city administrator, visit the City of Florence website at www.ci.florence.or.us/.
Be sure to let them know as quickly as possible before the 5:30 p.m. council meeting if you plan to voice your opinion. I have sent in my comments to them. Then start attending the PAC meetings in order to stay informed and provide feedback. Consider volunteering on a committee and be involved — because decisions by a small committee representing just .15 percent of Florence impacts all of us.
You can also sign up for the email distribution lists for the Public Art Committee meeting times and agendas by contacting the City Recorder at: