A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Giving credit for public art … and it’s free!

Written June 13th, 2021 by Hasso Hering

A detail in the Albany Skatepark mural, photographed on June 5.

When I reported on the remarkable new mural at the Albany Skatepark on June 1, I could not find a clue to who had painted it. Thanks to a reader’s suggestion I now have information on that point.

The mural covers the entire outside concrete wall on the north side of the skatepark and is visible from Santiam Road. It faces a parking lot that is part of the property of the ReStore of the Albany Area Habitat for Humanity.

A reader suggested that the ReStore staff might have an idea of who decorated that wall.

Turns out they did. A few days ago I stopped by the place and talked with, among others, the manager, Brenda Bradford.

They all said the mural was the work of Nate Vanek, a volunteer at the ReStore. He apparently painted the wall over a weekend about a month ago. He wasn’t at the store when I stopped by, and I left word for him to get in touch if he felt like it.

The mural artist clearly is the creative type. Bradford told me it was Vanek who had built the whimsical stick sculptures that showed up in Bowman Park one day last October. I checked them out at the time, and the result was this.

Also, I was told, he created the equally smile-inducing wooden dog that decorated the path around Waverly Lake in early March this year.

As for the skatepark mural, it covers a wall that was often marred by graffiti. And as soon as they were painted over, new ones would appear. But since the mural was done, taggers have left that wall alone.

So, whether he seeks it or not — and evidently he doesn’t — let’s give the man credit for doing a good thing and, with his stick art, making people smile. And by the way, unlike official Public Art commissioned by the local government, these creations cost the public nothing at all. (hh)

6 responses to “Giving credit for public art … and it’s free!”

  1. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    0% for art….I like it.

    What exactly is publicly funded art? It is government taking money from everyone and then enabling a privileged few to spend the money to satiate very limited “artistic” tastes.

    It is illiberal.

    Be like Nate. Spend your own money on the art you want.

  2. Frank DeLacroix says:

    Does this endorsement mean that anyone who has an artistic urge should feel free to express that urge onto taxpayer property? One can imagine how much bad art would be forced upon unwilling spectators were this “free art movement” allowed to take hold. The only difference between this uninvited work of art and your typical spray can artists is … well there really is no difference.

    • Gordon L. Shadle says:

      Yes, art enforcement is clearly lacking in this case.

      I suggest Albany authorities intervene in a similar way to what now happens with possession of heroin, meth, LSD, oxy, or other drugs – no arrest, but do an art assessment to determine if the artist needs to be referred to an art counselor.

      That way the Albany Arts Commission stays in control and maintains the power to impose its version of art conformity.

  3. russell Tripp says:

    Hasso, on another front you should check the large historic photo of Albany in the WAFD Bank(terrible name) that I do not think is our city. They said it came from the Museum.

  4. George Pugh says:

    Mr. DeLacroix, I think your response is reasonable, as well as your conclusion.
    That being said, to me, Mr. Vanek’s art is much more pleasing than the random tagging or graffiti and just as easily painted over.
    If another artwork somewhere is deemed to be unattractive or socially incorrect, then bring your paintbrush.
    I hope Mr. Vanek’s “outing” won’t bring him some discomfort.
    I applaud public art at a reasonable price.

  5. Scott Bruslind says:

    Great to read Brenda is still doing the Lord’s Work at Albany HfH ReStore. Nothing more divine than repurposing household items and building materials. Seems to attract a good crew, too, if Mr.Vanek is any indication.
    Thank you for the story.


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