by Vickie Aldous
Grants Pass has become Southern Oregon's public art capital. Although it has a reputation for being a mainly blue collar town that attracts tourists because of the Rogue River flowing through its heart, the city has hosted many public art projects because of support from Evergreen Federal Bank and the larger community.
Artists have painted fire hydrants, decorated the town with soaring eagles and flags and painted life-size fiberglass bears with fanciful designs. In the winter, out come giant nutcracker figures and murals lit with fiber-optic lights that display holiday scenes.
The latest public art extravaganza in Grants Pass is "The Doors of Oregon" project, which celebrates 150 years of Oregon statehood.
Evergreen Federal Bank officials asked more than 30 artists to paint and decorate doors that were salvaged from the Riverside Motel when the motel was removed to make way for Evergreen Park.
Artists decorated both sides of each door, yielding 66 images that range from a snow-dusted bridge at Multnomah Falls to views of Crater Lake and the Oregon coast to images of people floating down the Rogue River.
The doors, set up on concrete stands, are sprinkled on sidewalks throughout downtown Grants Pass.
The door murals will be on display until early October. Many will be auctioned off to raise money for the Wildlife Images animal rehabilitation and sanctuary center northwest of Grants Pass.
In the past year, Ashland has loosened its restrictive sign code and added new laws that allow for the loan and donation of public art to the city government. Artists recently completed a project to paint seven utility boxes, and sculptor Kevin Christman plans to install an angel sculpture downtown that previously was not allowed.
Still, Ashland has a long way to go to catch up with Grants Pass.
To get to the mural display from Ashland, travel on Interstate 5 and take the second exit into Grants Pass, Exit 58. Turn left and drive downhill into downtown Grants Pass. You'll find the Visitor Information Center and Recreation Office, which has maps of the door murals, at the corner of 6th and G streets.
Easy lunch spots downtown include the Laughing Clam at 121 S.W. G Street and the Blue Stone coffee shop at the corner of 6th and D streets. The new lodge-style Taprock Northwest Grill, located at 971 S.E. Sixth St., offers diners views of bronze wildlife sculptures and the Rogue River.
If you want to make it a full day or even stretch your trip to Grants Pass into a weekend jaunt, consider these options:
- Take a jetboat ride with Hellgate Jetboat Excursions in Grants Pass. This is a great choice for people who don't have a raft, as well as senior citizens and people in wheelchairs. Friendly staff members will help move a person from a wheelchair into a jetboat seat. Call (800) 648-4874 or visit www.hellgate.com.
- Visit Wildlife Images, located several miles outside Grants Pass. Call 476-0222 or visit www.wildlifeimages.org.
- Get back on Interstate 5 and go north of Grants Pass. Take Exit 71 to the Applegate Trail Interpretive Center, which captures the hardships settlers experienced traveling the Applegate Trail. Call (888) 411-1846 or visit www.rogueweb.com/interpretive.
- Follow Highway 199 south from Grants Pass to Cave Junction, and then turn east (left) on Highway 46 to reach the Oregon Caves National Monument. Call 592-2100 or visit www.nps.gov/orca.
- Stay on Highway 199 and go one mile south of Cave Junction to see lions, ocelots, leopards and tigers at the Great Cats World Park. Call 592-2957 or visit www.greatcatsworldpark.com.
Staff writer Vickie Aldous can be reached at 479-8199 or firstname.lastname@example.org.