On June 22, 2023, the newest public art installment in Bandon was unveiled. It's an underwater scene spanning 16 4 x 8 ft. metal panels adorning the eastern side of the Bandon Fisheries Warehouse at 249 1st Street SW; also the location of Bandon Farm & Sea, Washed Ashore, and the Bandon Farmer’s Market. Many visitors are impressed with the new mural and appreciate the beauty it brings to Old Town. However, very few may know the epic journey behind how the mural came to be, the people responsible for coordinating the project, who the artists were, or the important message it shares. It’s my privilege to share that with you today!
The project began about five years ago in an effort to disguise the mismatched siding colors of the Bandon Fisheries Warehouse. Port Manager, Jeff Griffin, remembers trying to decide what to do with the mismatched panels, when the idea of a mural came to mind. After getting the go ahead from the Port Commission, Jeff reached out to local artist Vicki Affatati, and pitched her the idea.
Jeff is an avid scuba diver and has a degree in marine biology. In the course of diving off the coastline from Brookings to Cape Arago, where he used to dive for abalone, he saw firsthand the destruction of our local kelp forests. When people come to Bandon they see the beauty of the ocean, but they may not realize what’s happening to the kelp forests below the waterline. In a recent article posted on the Bandon Port’s website (link listed below), Jeff states, “The increase in ocean temperatures, the loss of top predators, and a massive increase in purple sea urchins have combined to seriously threaten this important local habitat and all who rely on it.” Making people aware of this issue became the goal of Jeff, Vicki, and all the artists involved in the creation of the mural.
Over the course of a few years, they were able to obtain the funding they needed and began educational outreach classes in the local schools to teach kids what was happening in our Kelp Forest ecosystem. Vicki, who has done many art projects with local schools, made it her mission to get student involvement. To her amazement, she had far more students who wanted to help than she had spaces to offer. Wanting to give as many students the opportunity to be involved in a “real world community art experience,” Vicki decided to create 22 micro-murals and offered them to the students who wanted to help. The project supplied a list of local species for the kids to choose from and they “let the kids do their own research,” she said, “and come up with pictures of marine life that might have been too small to accurately portray on a mural.” It was very important to Jeff that the entire project wasn’t a generic underwater scene, but one that included marine life that are native to our coastal waters.
Through the cold, stormy and wet winter of 2022, the artists worked in the Bandon Fishery Warehouse painting the background until one fateful day in late January 2023, when Jeff’s adorable dog Porter came to check out the mural progress and walked across one of the dried panels. “When the paint was scraped off by Porter simply walking across the dried panels, I knew something wasn’t right.” said Vicki. They had been using a high-grade mural paint that was supposed to be excellent when working with primed panels. It wasn’t supposed to scratch. After a call to the paint manufacturer, she learned that due to the cold winter weather the paint had dried, but did not reach the temperature needed to cure and harden correctly. The only choice they had was to flip the panels over, sand it all down and start again, but time was short in order to meet required deadlines.
This is where our community stepped in to help. More volunteers came forward to help paint, often well into the early morning hours. They were almost painting round the clock in an effort to beat the grant deadlines that were coming due. The Sprague Theater opened their doors between performances for the crew to use the stage to paint their panels. Holly Sylvester, the elementary and middle school music teacher offered the use of her music room during Spring Break. The Port of Bandon provided a room they could use to put the final touches on the mural and prep it for installation.
As if finishing the mural wasn’t ambitious enough, Jeff and Vicki were able to be a part of the team that coordinated the annual Port of Bandon Boardwalk Art Show and gave it a corresponding theme, “Our Forests, Above and Below.” A flyer went out to an estimated 200 participating artists spreading the news about what was happening in the ocean kelp beds and inspiring the paintings that are now on display on the Bandon boardwalk.
The mural was unveiled on June 22, 2023 soon after the opening of the newly remodeled Bandon Fisheries Warehouse. The project that started out as a simple mural to disguise the mismatched siding had evolved to include a 510 sq. ft. public art mural and 22 micro-murals. Four grants, over 20 student artists from two different school districts, and multiple community artists helped to complete the mural project. Educational outreach classes in the local schools and a public awareness campaign dovetailed perfectly with the annual Bandon Boardwalk Art Show.
On September 9th, at 1 pm and in conjunction with the Bandon Cranberry Festival, the Port will be hosting the Awards Ceremony for the artists that participated in the Boardwalk Art Show. The outdoor event will occur at the amphitheater on the boardwalk next to the picnic shelter. Thank you to both Jeff and Vicki who will be there to once again spread the word about the mission to save our local Kelp Forests. Thank you for a fantastic community effort, and everyone who contributed in bringing this beautiful mural to our town, shedding the light on an important issue below the surface of our shining sea.
Written by Nicole Graham
BAAA Perspective Newsletter. September 2023
This blog article has been submitted by Nicart Gallery. More articles featuring local art projects can be found at: https://www.nicartgallery.com/blogs/news
For more information about our local Kelp Forests, please visit the following sites:
Port of Bandon website at: https://www.portofbandon.com/general/page/great-kelp-forest-project-mural
Oregon Kelp Alliance: https://www.oregonkelp.com/