The Dalles Mural Society was organized in March 1993 with the mission of pictorially preserving the local historical events that have occurred in our area. The society was presented the mural “Decision at The Dalles” by the city fathers in May 1993. It was the first of many murals that the society would not only commission but care for over the last 21 years. Webb Peterson was the mayor at the time and he became our first president.
The project has grown to 15 murals over the past 21 years, with 13 of these having voice boxes that allow the visitor an oral interpretation of our history.
The mural society has financed the paintings and maintenance on the 12 murals that the society has charge over. Members also felt an obligation to clean and touch up the murals that were painted before the mural society was formed. All of the murals including the two at the high school were painted by world renowned muralists.
The cost of the murals ranged from $10,000 to $25,000; depending on the size. Some of the murals were done with matching funds, such as the “Umatilla House” mural (Mural #8). It was painted by Robert Thomas. The Dalles resident Robert Keys contributed $12,500 with the mural society matching that amount for a total of $25,000..
The Dalles Mural Society has financed the murals with raffles; including gold-plated rifles purchased by Webb Peterson for the raffle. Tickets were $5.00 each and were sold for several months. This helped fund the society’s mural program and also reimbursed Peterson for the purchase of the rifles.
A Bi-Centennial Quilt was made and donated to the mural society to raffle off for funds to go towards the murals. A New Year’s Eve dinner and dance at the Portage Inn was held one year and other smaller activities have been sponsored by the society. Many private donations have been made to the society in support of The Dalles Murals.
The society began making sure that the murals were properly maintained about 12 to 15 years after the organization was formed. Some of the murals had been vandalized and had to be touched up. Maintenance of the murals has been an expensive part of the society’s mural program. The average cost per mural is $1,500.
The society has contracts with the property owners promising to keep care of the murals for 15 years from the time the murals were first painted. This assures the building owner that the mural will be maintained and kept in good shape.
There are several murals that the society did not originally paint but have been repainted The murals that we are responsible for are Murals #1 through Mural #12, (plus the two murals at the high school #16). Murals that were repainted are the Steamer Regulator sign (#13), Albers Flapjack Flour sign (#14), and the Coca-Cola sign (#15).
Each mural has a story behind it as interpreted by our talking boxes. Early in the project to give “voice” to the murals, several of the boxes were destroyed by vandals; no doubt thinking that the boxes contained money. Replacing the boxes was very expensive, but the vandalism stopped for the most part as they realized there was no money inside the boxes.
The society has been awarded grants and have succeeded in lighting the four murals in the heart of downtown The Dalles. The goal of the society is to eventually have all the murals illuminated and to continue depicting the history of our area through more beautiful murals.
People have come from all over the country to view our murals, and our murals have been featured in several Northwest magazines. The Dalles is well-known for its beautiful historic moments in art.
The Dalles Mural Soceity is a volunteer orgnazation supported by its members and donations. The organization is a 501 (3) (c) non-profit organization. It is operated by a board of directors who work on a number of activities, including: membership drives, organize fund raising events,identify topics for possible murals, locate buildings for future murals, select and contract with artists, contract with buidling owners, and handle other tasks required for the success of the program. All funds dontated to The Dalles Mural Soceity are invested in the murals.
Through the murals and their stories we are not only exposing viewers to the local art, but the humanities and our local heritage. The murals bring geographic awareness to what surrounds us not only in our community but in a larger way such as the journey of Lewis and Clark. We want our murals to encouarge viewers to continue to learn about our area and its history.