You may have noticed some extra activity going on downtown The Dalles  last weekend. If so, you probably caught a group of volunteers painting along the side of the Bohn-Wood building on the 100 block of E. Third Street, next to City Hall.

The volunteers were not painting just anything, though. This group of highly skilled sign painters and muralists belong to a group called the “Wall Dogs,” a consortium of mural artists from around the world who take time off from their schedules and descend upon a city each year to paint up to 15 murals in the community. This weekend, the group visited The Dalles to paint a “teaser mural,” one that simply previews the best yet to come for the upcoming “Northwest Mural Fest,” scheduled to occur Sept. 16-18, 2021, in The Dalles.

The Dalles Main Street Program is working with Wall Dogs to put together the murals as well as next year’s festival. The work is funded through The Dalles Main Street Program as well as donations, according to Terry Chance, executive director of The Dalles Main Street Program. Chance said eight walls are currently under contract, and the program is seeking an additional seven walls to host additional murals. 

The teaser mural depicts Wasco County’s famous cherry industry, past and present, with an antique mural and farm scenics. By creating the mural early, the group intends to build excitement for the 15 other murals they plan to paint around the city for next year’s event. Boise-based artist Noel Webber took on the work of creating the design, which was fine-tuned and adjusted before approval. 

Don Warren, chair for The Dalles Main Street program, told Columbia Gorge News the planning group is getting one mural done a year in advance “to get the word out,” as well as to assess the process to ensure success in the forthcoming event.

“There’s a ton of artists in The Dalles community… let’s make sure the whole world knows about it,” Warren said.

Carolyn Wood, who co-owns the building, said she felt excited seeing the new artwork displayed on the wall. The mural partially covers up older wall art predating other murals across town. It depicts “the end of the Oregon Trail.”

“We were happy to have something new,” Wood said. “This represents a lot of what The Dalles is about.”

Pete McKearnen has been a member of the Wall Dogs for many years, he said. Having painted many murals before, McKearnen was assigned as the coordinator for the murals. He makes the final decisions on artistic choices, he said. One great thing about the Wall Dogs, he said, is that the group of muralists come to know each other better over the years which has led to great experiences and lifelong friendships.

“It’s like a vacation for some of us,” McKearnen said. Better yet, he said, they get to support artists in the community and promote the arts.

The bulk of the murals will be painted in September 2021, as part of the mural festival in The Dalles. Information on the local program can be found at thedallesmainstreet.com, click on wall dogs.

Warren said any leftover space the group has after the Wall Dogs-sanctioned art is installed will be used to set up art from the local community.

Donations for the teaser mural include housing and food services provided by Cousin’s Inn and Restaurant, as well as food provided by Last Stop Saloon and Zims Brau Haus. The group of volunteers were also treated to a movie and pizza night at the Neon Sign Museum. Donations can be made online.

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