Colorful murals coming to Lincoln City

Agnes Baker Pilgrim, left, often known as Grandmother Agnes, meets with the Dalai Lama. An Activate Arts ground mural honoring her will be painted at the 51st Street beach access in Taft in August. Crystal Akins is collecting favorite childhood tunes as inspiration for a ground mural she will be painting at Regatta Park in Lincoln City in August.

LINCOLN CITY — What’s your child’s favorite song? Or your own special childhood tune? If you send that information to Crystal Akins, it may just become inspiration for a ground mural at Regatta Park in Lincoln City.

Akins, a Lincoln City resident and arts activist, formed the nonprofit Activate Arts organization a few months ago, and is eager to get to work on a community improvisational mural titled “Vibrations” at the musical instrument playground pad at Regatta Park. The mural will be a tangible part of her mission to inspire arts activism in the community.

Once Akins receives 100 songs, she will make a community playlist and play the music for inspiration as she paints the mural.

She came up with the idea for the mural by watching children at the instrument playground, a favorite of her 5-year-old daughter. “I saw kids run from instrument to instrument and play them and listen to the kid next to them as they were all improvising and creating music,” she said. “I could feel their music vibrate into the air and through the forest and into Devils Lake. This mural will recreate the joy that comes from creating music together.”

The Regatta Park mural is one of four in Akins’ Activate Arts project, organized in conjunction with the Lincoln City Parks and Recreation Department. The other ground murals will be at the Southeast 51st Street in Taft beach access, at the beach access in Nelscott and at the sidewalk entrance of the Lincoln City Community Center. Akins has contracted with three Portland artists to paint those murals.

The Nelscott and the Regatta Park murals will be painted and completed Aug. 3-7. The 51st Street and Community Center murals will be painted and completed Aug. 9-14.  

Akins originally planned to have the community join in painting the mural at Regatta Park, but with the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting closure of the park, she turned to virtual involvement. 

“I hope this inspires people to talk about music and art,” she said, noting the playlist can be shared from her Activate Arts Facebook account. She can also be reached by text at 503-358-6143, and she will make a playlist on Spotify. Children can then listen to the playlist and paint at home while she is painting the park mural.

Akins hopes to start painting no later than Aug. 1, and will begin just as soon as she receives 100 songs — as of last week, she had 20. Check her Facebook Activate Arts account to find out when painting will begin.

A dedication ceremony is planned for noon on Aug. 15 at the 51st Street Taft beach access, focused on that mural’s topic, Agnes Baker Pilgrim, also known as Grandmother Agnes or Grandmother Aggie. She was a Native American spiritual leader who was born in Logsden and attended Taft High School. Miles Browne will paint that mural, which will include images of traditional chin tattoos, salmon, water and a firefly — Agnes’s totem.

“A lot of people in Lincoln City don’t know about her,” Akins said of Pilgrim, who died not long ago. “She met the Dalai Lama and founded the International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers.”

At the dedication, Agnes’s daughter, Ramona Hudson, will offer a blessing, and Creed Tyee Taylor, Agnes’s grandson and Akins’ partner, will coordinate the music and dance.

“We will be social distancing, and it will be livestreamed on Facebook Activate Arts,” Akins said.

Grandmother Agnes was a member of the Takelma Tribe and is credited with bringing back the traditional Salmon Ceremony. She was known as the “voice of the voiceless,” speaking out for animals, trees, water and all beings, and was honored as a “Living Treasure” by the Confederated Tribes of the Siletz.

“The murals are about bringing the community together and celebrating culture,” Akins explained. “I’m working to bring people together in an equitable way to create inclusive art.”

The Nelscott mural, which will align with Lincoln City’s new octopus logo, will be painted by Todd Beaty, a glass artist and costume designer; the community center mural will be done by painter and fiber artist Ashlin Bush and will focus on cultural identity with a nautical theme. Akins said the community center mural could be added to “as we become more inclusive and aware of our history.”

Lincoln City Parks and Recreation Director Jeanne Sprague said she is delighted with the project, which Akins proposed to her this past winter. “We have a public process to go through to have public art in our spaces,” Sprague said, explaining the mural designs have gone to the Parks and Recreation board, the public arts board, the city manager and the city council.

“I’m so thankful to Activate Arts and Crystal because these projects are thought of, organized and completed with our public involved,” Sprague said. “She came to the Parks and Recreation Department, and she and I sat down together in a collaborative process. We have a tight budget, and the murals are being done free. It’s a great partnership. 

“I love art, especially in public spaces, where everyone can enjoy it,” she added.

Born and raised in Portland, Akins recalled doing ground murals — then called intersection murals — when she was in high school. “Those murals gave us a sense of belonging and a feeling of joy,” she said. “They were bright colors in the midst of concrete, and you’d pause and take in the beauty coming up from the ground.

“Ground murals feel like symbols of community to me,” Akins added. “And I think right now, moments like those really matter.”

The four Lincoln City murals are all on park land, and Akins hopes to connect with other parks and recreation departments along the coast to create more of them.

She has been helped in her work by the Oregon Community Foundation and Oregon Humanities. She received a 2019-21 Fields Artist Fellowships making it possible for her to move with her daughter to Lincoln City and be with her family.

“And the fellowship has given me the time to do this project,” she said.

According to its website, the Fields Fellowships are designed “to support emerging to mid-career Oregon-based artists, and provide funding over two years to advance their artistic practice and explore the state’s ‘opportunity gap,’ reflected in widening disparities in life outcomes for Oregon children born into poverty.”

Akins had originally planned to use her fellowship to build the Lincoln City Music Festival and Lincoln City Youth Choir, and to compose an original musical. The youth choir was practicing at the Lincoln City Cultural Center and was becoming “a wonderful core group of singers” when COVID-19 hit, Akins said. “We had to stop rehearsals.”

The music festival is on hold, but she is continuing to compose her musical, “The Girl With the Magic Skin,” about race, equity and inclusion. “It’s a teaching tool for youth to practice equity and inclusion in community,” Akins said, adding she hopes it will debut in 2022. 

“I’m mainly a musician — a choral conductor,” Akins said. “With the pandemic, I’m leaning into things that I can do right now.” The choir will start virtual practices in September, and she plans to offer an intergenerational virtual ukulele choir that month as well.

Akins is also developing arts programming at the Lincoln County Youth Shelter and Detention, and hosts equity and inclusion conversations in partnership with Oregon Humanities. 

“I am grateful to have the opportunity to … activate arts during this time of isolation,” she said.

Share a favorite tune from childhood on Facebook at Activate Arts. Or text Akins at 503-358-6143 and follow her on the Activate Arts Facebook page or via the Lincoln City Parks and Recreation website to see when she’ll be painting. Tunes can also be sent to Lincoln City Parks and Recreation at [email protected] or by phone at 541-994-2131.