Volunteers to paint new Grant neighborhood street murals over Fourth of July weekend

In 2022, the Grant Neighborhood Association installed Salem’s first street mural: a whirl of cherry blossoms at the intersection of Northeast Belmont and Cottage Streets.

This weekend, it will become the first neighborhood to install a second mural since the launch of the city’s street mural painting program, sponsored by Travel Salem grants. West Salem installed the city’s fifth street mural last summer.

Community paint sessions from 9 a.m. to noon, July 4 through 7, will brighten up roundabouts at the intersections of Northeast Hood Street at Winter Street and Hood Street. Sign-ups to join in are on the neighborhood’s website. A planned block party has been postponed due to hot weather.

The neighborhood self-funded its original mural, which was the first in Salem. When Travel Salem started giving out grants for paintings, Grant got $2,000 for the mural and block party retroactively. With that, Susan Napack, the association’s vice-chair, said they decided to do it again.

“There was just so much excitement,” she said. “Basically the same small team of people who planned the first one are doing this one also. So we’re kind of like, ‘We’ve done it before, we can do it again.’”

The bright, circular designs — one pink, orange and yellow and the other blues and greens — are reminiscent of bicycle wheels. Artist Erika Baker designed these and the cherry blossom murals. 

“We wanted to celebrate the scenic bikeway and neighborhood greenway which runs through Grant neighborhood,” Napack said.

Each circle is about 16 feet across, and Napack is picking up over 15 gallons of primer for the project. She said their first mural, a more complicated design, has held up, maybe because “we primed the hell out of it.”

She’s expecting the new, smaller murals to take less time to finish.

“We can certainly do them pretty quick, and I think they’re going to be really pretty. And kids are going to like them,” Napack said. The murals are adjacent to Grant Community School.

Napack said the cherry blossom mural has been doing its intended job of slowing down traffic, but has also become a beloved feature. Walkers will detour their routes to look at it, and neighborhood kids have invented a new game, “mural ball,” reminiscent of four square, using it.

“It kind of sparks joy. You can be thinking about all sorts of other things: what you have to do next, what’s going on with your day. And then you see it, and it just kind of brightens everything up. And that’s what we’re hoping to do with the circles, too,” she said.

Napack said since these will cover existing traffic circles, the additions are unlikely to slow traffic much more than they already do. But she does think the new colors will make passersby happy.

Volunteering won’t require any special painting skills, Napack said. They’re doing one full mural at a time to limit traffic disruption, and Thursday’s session will start with a white primer.

“We’ve got some really organized people, so if there are kids there that want to paint, we’ll allow them,” she said. “They’ll be able to go in and they’ll have instruction, and probably just rollers and brushes. It’s going to be pretty easy.”
Water and a shade tent will be provided. She said the painting sessions will feel like a party.

The neighborhood had planned to hold a block party at Grant School Park on Sunday to celebrate the finished project, but due to hot weekend weather it has been postponed. Napack said the new date will likely be National Night Out on August 6. 

Napack said she can’t wait to see the finished murals.

“I just can’t wait to see how the kids respond to it. And then when the school year starts again, it’s going to be exciting for them to see that. The kids coming in, and just the expressions on people’s faces when they see it,” she said.

CORRECTION: The West Salem mural was the fifth to be installed in Salem, not the fourth. Salem Reporter apologizes for the error.

Contact reporter Abbey McDonald: [email protected] or 503-575-1251

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Abbey McDonald joined the Salem Reporter in 2022. She previously worked as the business reporter at The Astorian, where she covered labor issues, health care and social services. A University of Oregon grad, she has also reported for the Malheur Enterprise, The News-Review and Willamette Week.