As you turn off of High Street and onto Broadway, one of the first things you will now see is a stage setting the scene for the great things Frankfort has to offer — intrigue, wonder, beautiful landscapes, imagination and more. Those characteristics are incorporated in downtown Frankfort’s newest mural being painted on the side of Broadway Clay.
“When you come around that corner, this is your first impression of downtown,” Broadway Clay owner Jody Jaques said. Jaques owns the business with Les Greeman and Megan Sauter.
“We wanted it to be a reflection of the community and something they understand and can engage in,” Jaques said.
Oregonian artist David Carmack Lewis, who was selected from 84 artists from around the country who submitted their qualifications for consideration by FrankArts, is painting the mural. After a juried selection process, the FrankArts board, joined by the property owner and Broadway Clay owners, selected Lewis to paint the mural.
Sauter said Lewis was selected because his “work had more of a surrealism feel.”
“It was like looking into a scene of Frankfort,” she said of the concept artwork that Lewis had to submit to the council after being one of the final four artists the pool of 84 had been narrowed down to.
Lewis’ mural shows a stage with red curtains. On the stage is a vast scene showing Frankfort’s landscape of limestone cliffs, rolling hills and the Kentucky River. In the foreground is a campfire with an empty chair by it. The night sky is full of wonder with constellations and another empty chair.
Lewis said his original concept showed a country scene with a pond, but when he arrived to Frankfort, he drove around and took photos of the landscapes.
“It had to be about the river and limestone cliffs,” Lewis said.
To incorporate the brickwork of the building, Lewis created the stage set.
“The brick element coming down holds back the curtains,” he said. “I love to incorporate existing architecture.”
Lewis said the empty chairs in the mural are a recurring theme in his work. This is the seventh mural he has painted.
“(The empty chairs) allow you to have a sense of the human presences,” Lewis said. “It invites you to imagine yourself in the scene. The two chairs are having a conversation around the campfire at night. The constellations are the conversation bouncing around. You get a sense of floating up in the sky. I have the chair floating in the sky.
“My work has always been narrative.”
Sauter said the mural reminds her of a storybook.
“It keeps your mind going,” she said. “It’s an imaginative sky.”
Jaques said the mural offers a sense of wonder, which is especially great for the preschoolers from New Horizons Child Development Center next door to Broadway Clay.
“We felt like this was something they would connect with,” Jaques said.
Lewis began his artistic career as an illustrator and his artwork remains committed to visual storytelling, according to a press release. His paintings were recently featured in a solo exhibition at the Coos Art Museum and his work has been supported by grants from The Ford Family Foundation, The Oregon Arts Commission and the Regional Arts & Culture Council.
Lewis embarked on creating large-scale public paintings six years ago. Lewis’ mural “The Big Backyard” in Boise, Idaho, was featured as the best in the state in Parade Magazine. Lewis believes that visual art is a powerful tool for connecting communities with their built and natural environments, the press release said. With each mural, he strives to integrate the work aesthetically with its architectural context while reflecting aspects of the regional landscape and local community.
The mural has a total cost of $20,000 and is mostly funded through a grant from FrankArts administered through Josephine Sculpture Park, Sauter said. Broadway Clay had to raise $3,500 to help fund the mural. The property owner, Pat Bacon, paid to have the side of the building resurfaced in preparation for the mural to be painted.
“We raised the funds through donations and pottery sales,” Sauter said.
On the counter in Broadway Clay sits a piece of pottery that patrons can put donations in.
“The donation pot has been up for a couple of months to remind people to donate,” Greeman said. “This is your city, invest in it.”
Greeman said that he is excited to see Frankfort undergoing this renaissance.
“I’m pleased there is so much public art available,” he said.
Lewis said painting the mural in Frankfort is a big deal for him.
“I really like the idea of funded public art,” he said. “I was excited to get the job. I like what they’ve done downtown. I like the other pieces.”
A ribbon cutting for the mural is scheduled to take place at 5 p.m. Friday, Sept. 24, at Broadway Clay.