City News

New Northgate mural a sunflower mosaic of faces

A sunflower motif showing off the diversity of a northeast Salem neighborhood is the latest splash of color to grace Salem’s streets.

Northgate neighborhood residents came together Saturday, Sept. 24 to paint the design at the intersection of Northeast Carlton Way and Donald Street, part of a project organized by the neighborhood association and ENLANCE Cross-Cultural Community Project.

It shows a large sunflower, with the seeds in the flower painted as people’s faces.

Kaethe Mentrum, the secretary and park chair for the Northgate Neighborhood Association, led the design process. She said they worked to incorporate people of a variety of ages, racial and ethnic backgrounds and life experiences in the faces depicted.

A close-up of the sunflower detail in the completed Northgate Neighborhood Association mural at the intersection of Northeast Carlton Way and Donald Street (Courtesy/Northgate Neighborhood Association)

“The construction company in front of the art helped a great deal with the owner Juan and his helper priming the place which I drew with chalk,” Mentrum wrote in an email. “As we were painting last Saturday, we had many participants who happily painted while many vehicles drove by tooting their horns or giving us a thumbs up, some people cheered us on, one man who lives across the street was so overjoyed he bought us soft drinks and brought them in an ice chest. It brought joy to a lot of people surrounding us too. Another neighbor commented he will come see the art whenever he feels the dreary days in the winter time.”

The mural is the third to be painted on city streets, and the second as part of a grant program through Travel Salem aiming to get more neighborhood color to Salem.

Travel Salem is hosting a block party Saturday, Oct. 1 from 2-5 p.m. at the mural site to celebrate its debut, with food, drink, music, games and art exhibits provided.

In late August, the Highland Neighborhood Association debuted a sunshine-focused design through the Travel Salem program. The Grant neighborhood became the first in Salem to add a mural earlier in the summer after city councilors approved a street painting program earlier this year.

Other neighborhoods planning projects are Faye Wright, Sunnyslope, West Salem, South Central and North Lancaster, with many planned for painting in 2023 once the weather improves.

The completed Northgate Neighborhood Association mural at the intersection of Northeast Carlton Way and Donald Street (Courtesy/Northgate Neighborhood Association)

The Northgate effort involved many in the neighborhood and helped build community, said Amador Aguilar, director of the ENLACE Cross-Cultural Community Project.

“Children from three to seniors from 70 years old participated in the painting process, and people from different cultural backgrounds also participated from just asking, suggesting to painting important parts,” Aguilar said in an email.

Aguilar said the design reflects natural spaces in the neighborhood, as well as hope.

“We placed the voices of our neighbors in a sunflower, because a sunflower represents the importance of our nature, of our community gardens and represents the movement to find the shine of the sun,” he said. “Our neighbors want to find the shine of progress for all.”

Neighbors paint a street mural for the Northgate Neighborhood Association at the intersection of Northeast Carlton Way and Donald Street in late September 2022 (Courtesy/Enlace)

Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.

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Rachel Alexander is Salem Reporter’s managing editor. She joined Salem Reporter when it was founded in 2018 and covers city news, education, nonprofits and a little bit of everything else. She’s been a journalist in Oregon and Washington for a decade. Outside of work, she’s a skater and board member with Salem’s Cherry City Roller Derby and can often be found with her nose buried in a book.