Eugene Weekly : Visual Art : 12.10.2009


Take Flight
Community, kids and paint at Upstart Crow
by Natalie Miller

Across the train tracks and surrounded by auto repair shops, kids are hard at work expressing their passion for the arts, dancing, singing and acting. At Upstart Crow Studios School of the Arts on 1st Ave. between Adams and Monroe, kids are encouraged to grab hold of their creative side and share it with the community. But even when the children are not performing, the public can still enjoy their work — and the work of adult artists who created Upstart Crow’s recently unveiled mural.

This summer, artist Erin Bucklew and community muralist Kari Johnson,along with the help of Upstart Crow kids, neighborhood children and a grant from the Lane Arts Council, created a large scale mural on the side of the building. The wall painting is complete with a giant crow and everything imaginable that has to do with lines: music lines, a stream, a jump rope, a cat dressed in stripes and a line from The Wizard of Oz: “If the good Lord wanted to see mermaids swimming through a cow pasture, he would have put them there himself.” Bucklew says that by choosing the theme of lines, she hoped anybody could participate.

Although Bucklew and Johnson started painting the mural in July, Bucklew says she worked on the design for about three to four months before that, studying, photographing and learning how to draw crows. After creating a format, Bucklew began to outline the shape of the crow with a tree pruner and then began to paint, using a paint roller. Bucklew says, “It’s scary letting little kids on a mural.” So when it came time for the kids to join in, Bucklew asked that each child draw his or her idea about five times before committing it to the wall. The oldest child to participate was 8 years old, and each child signed the mural after the painting was finished.

According to Upstart Crow’s Executive Director, Eularee Smith, throughout the project, the mural continued to evolve and grow as new additions were made. But the uncertainty didn’t bother her; quite the contrary. “It really captures the essence of Upstart Crow. And that’s what I love about it,” Smith says. “I think, in general, for the community and for the kids that come here, it personalizes the building and makes it their home.” The outside painting is not the only mural at Upstart Crow. Inside, you’ll find two more murals, including another mural by Bucklew, the result of her desire to create a mural that connected to the kids’ theater work. With help from her kids, Bucklew came up with a whimsical design focused on teenage themes, such as braces. The other mural is a colorful graffiti painting by Joel Fish, splashed across an entire upstairs wall. As part of the Restorative Justice Program, Fish created his own design, and over a weekend created an inspirational mural that follows Upstart Crows’ mission: “The power of creative expression.” To view any one of these murals, head down to Upstart Crow Studios, located at 855 W 1st Ave, and watch for more about Upstart Crow in this space.