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Restoration begins on dilapidated mural in Oregon City

The 29-year-old mural is being restored and new ones will be added after a change in the city's code

OREGON CITY, Ore. — Perched atop a scissor lift on Main Street in Oregon City, mural artist Cathy Rowe got to work on restoring a 29-year-old mural above Don Pepe's restaurant on Friday.

"It needed to be cleaned and then the surface needed to be prepared properly to make sure that all the cracks were filled and everything is ready to receive new paint." Rowe said.

The mural depicts the trolleys that used to run through the city. It was painted by the late mural artist Larry Kangas, who passed away in 2014. Rowe isn't painting over his work and creating a new mural, just giving it new life.

"It is there, you just got to look for it. All the clues are there, so I'm just trying to follow the clues as best I can," Rowe said, "It almost gets to be a paint by number once I figure out where the lines are and what color goes where."

The trolley car mural is one of several murals in Oregon City. In 2015, the city code was changed to include murals as signs visible by the public and thus fell under certain restrictions. The change in city code essentially made it impossible to create large murals. That is, until artists and residents of Oregon City petitioned the city council to change the city's code.

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Trieste Andrews, president of the Three Rivers Artist Guild, said several artists, residents and business owners signed petitions asking that the code be changed, "Took about a year, but murals are again allowed in Oregon City."

Andrews said there are three murals that are planned with more in the works as word begins to spread about the change. Andrews said this time, the murals will be a reflection of the city's history and culture.

"Many of the murals that are here like 20 years ago depicted the pioneers here, but there is a lot more to Oregon City than just the pioneers. It was the Confederated Tribe we're trying to bring in on murals, Black Pioneer Society, the Asian influence, so we're excited to portray Oregon City as an inclusive city."

To celebrate the restoration of the mural, the public is invited to watch Rowe paint the trolley mural and sit at tables across the street on Saturday, Sept. 24 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and eat free chips and salsa from Don Pepe's restaurant.

"As a mural artist that moved here in 2017, that feels huge to me that we're finally gonna be able to restore our old murals and have new ones. It's such a big thing." Rowe said.

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