ONTARIO — A pop-up festival in downtown Ontario on Saturday will be leaving a lasting impression on the city, as at least one local business will be getting a permanent art installation as part of the event.
Organizers say the goal of the Eastern Oregon Mural Festival is to foster more public art in Ontario.
The event is being put on by Treasure Valley Cannabis Company, a future recreational marijuana dispensary in Ontario owned by Jeremy Archie, formerly of Portland and now living in Boise.
When he first started coming over to the area with his colleagues to get the ball rolling on his future shop, which is slated to be in the 400 block of Southeast 12th Avenue, they noticed there wasn’t a lot of art in Ontario.
“Since spending more time in Ontario, we noticed only one or two public art or murals in town,” said Chase Muromoto, marketing director. “Over time, we want to start bringing more of that creativity to the town.”
As art is lacking in the city, he said, it makes Ontario feel like it is behind other towns.
“We want to help bring that modern touch,” Muromoto said, explaining that the hope is to connect the community with other artists during Saturday’s collaborative, which will feature about 15 painters, as well as other artists, including local and regional glassblowing artists who will be demonstrating their work, as well as vending.
The painters not working on the murals will be painting panels in the park, and the hope is to eventually install those panels in some kind of permanent public art exhibit, Muromoto said. Painters will come from the Ontario area, the Portland Metro area and Boise, too.
One of the painters on tap is Thrashbird, a well-known L.A.-based street artist who originally hails from Boise. He has been helping push the festival into the spotlight, Muromoto says. Thrashbird’s art is considered a creative movement and often includes bigger abstract murals and installations.
Another artist out of Portland will be doing tattoo illustrations, said Muromoto.
Originally, the plan was to use ladders for the permanent mural walls, however, Pro Rental & Sales in Ontario is now going to provide scissor lists for those projects.
A year in the making
Since he was first looking at setting up shop in the downtown area, Archie decided to invest in his future business community. The buffer zones enacted by Ontario City Council meant he couldn’t set up where he was initially hoping on South Oregon Street, according to Cummings, but he still decided that area of town needed attention.
According to Tracy Hammond, owner of Vintage Rose, Archie first approached her about a year ago about his goals in trying to make Ontario look a little more presentable.
“He wanted to put a great spin on what they could do for Ontario,” she said.
Hammond’s shop was one of four that the future dispensary originally lined up to get a gift of a permanent mural painted on their wall.
“One thing we were running into with a lot of these businesses is they get cold feet, because they start to realize the murals are really nice, but almost too modern for them,” Muromoto said.
While some murals can cost up to $20,000 for a respected artist to install, he said, some owners weren’t comfortable not having some kind of control in the final design.
But Hammond said some people may have shied away from it because the mural project is tied to the cannabis industry. She expressed her disappointment at this line of thought.
“This man is spending money out of his own pocket to benefit Ontario, and to benefit my business,” she said. “I don’t know how my shoppers earn their money and if I don’t approve of [how they do], should I just not accept it?”
Hammond said she doesn’t see it as a bad thing when dispensaries are putting money back into our community, and wants to remind citizens of the $25,000 donation made by Hotbox Farms in 2018 to the Ontario Splash Pad.
“We have a beautiful little town and a lot going on and I just love that someone else is bringing something to it,” she said.
‘A positive effect’
The hope for Hammond and officials with the future dispensary is that in seeing one of the completed murals, more businesses might open up to the idea.
The art at Vintage Rose is going on the store’s north exterior wall along Southwest Second Avenue, and will be easily visible for people traveling along South Oregon Street.
“I’m super excited,” Hammond said of the project. “I was part of murals in Vale when they started doing those and people drove to town just to see them. This will make people stop and go, ‘Look at this!’”
The business owner, who just celebrated three years on Thursday night, said she had some people tell her they are offended that she’s letting marijuana money be affiliated with her store.
“His money isn’t being made illegally,” Hammond said. “It’s not against the law in Oregon.”
She said, herself, does not have the money to pay for such an art project.
“If he wants to take money and beautify downtown, go for it. I think it’s a positive effect on the industry,” Hammond said.
She says she doesn’t use marijuana and she doesn’t even drink or smoke cigarettes, but said that she does believe in God, who “gave us every plant.”
“I want a positive spin on marijuana now that it’s here,” Hammond said, adding that it’s the same as any other substance — some people will just overdo it, just like “over-drinking and overeating.”
“People need to realize that … life changes and this is just another life-changing thing,” she said. “I’m trying to see the positive, not the negative.”
And that goal parallels with what Treasure Valley Cannabis Company is trying to achieve with Saturday’s event.
“Any type of public art in a community is super important,” Muromoto says. “For people just walking by, it might spark creativity.”