Back in the heat of August, the Walldogs gathered to paint a series of murals in The Dalles, Oregon. The event took place after a Covid-enforced delay, and brought together an international cast of artists and designers, supported by a team of volunteer painters. The Northwest MuralFest was bathed in sunshine as wall after wall was decorated with murals celebrating the city, its history, and people.
About the Walldogs
The basic premise of the Walldogs is to improve the appearance of towns and cities by painting large, colourful murals. These celebrate important pieces of local heritage, and significant historical figures. Fundraising covers the direct costs of designing and producing the murals, with volunteers helping to paint them over the days of the event.
The event in The Dalles, Oregon, lasted five days from 24–28 August 2022. 15 murals were painted, bringing the total to 17 after two had been produced as tests ahead of time. Many of the mural themes were selected based on a public vote, and range from local communities and groups, to individuals including village chiefs, entrepreneurs, rodeo stars, and dancers.
The Dalles MuralFest Murals
The following is a selection of the final murals, including the biggest ever designed and produced by Noel B. Weber. And he's designed a few in his time! The photos have been kindly shared by Lee Littlewood, Philip Mascher, and contributors to the dedicated Facebook event page. If you are visiting The Dalles, then this map will help you locate them all.
Designed by Aaron Taylor.
Harold L. Davis’s was a writer and the first Oregon-born person to win a Pulitzer Prize. This was for his novel Honey in the Horn which was about southern Oregon pioneer life. The book also scooped the Harper Prize.
Designed by “The Wing Nuts” Sonny Franks, Eric Skinner and Russell Kelly
Local entrepreneur Ben Snipes earned his fortune herding cattle and supplying beef to gold miners. He is in the National Cowboy Hall of Fame, and this other business interests included The Dalles bank and the Snipes & Kinnersly drugstore.
La Familia Mexicana
Designed by Patrick Smith / @patrick.g.smith.79
The Latino community has been a strong cultural influence in The Dalles since the early 1880s. This mural features key elements of this culture, including family, music, and religion. It also references the Bracero Program which brought Mexican men to the area to work in agriculture, including seasonal cherry picking.
World Famous Cherries
Designed by Noel B. Weber / @noelbweber
This mural celebrating the area's cherry farming heritage was one of two produced in advance of the main event. Next to it is a promotional panel advertising the original dates in September 2021 before these were pushed back due to the pandemic.
The Chinese Community
Designed by Joe Diaz / @diazsignart
Another important community in The Dalles are the Chinese that flourished during the mid-1800s to the early-1900s. They made a vital economic contribution to the city and ran a variety of businesses including laundries, restaurants, lodging houses, gardens, and stores selling items imported from China.
Historic Columbia River Highway
Designed by Noel B. Weber / @noelbweber
Constructed between 1913–22, the Historic Columbia River Highway provided a means of traveling from east to west through the Columbia River Gorge. It was designed by Samuel Lancaster to take full advantage of its location with myriad scenic viewpoints and panoramas along the way; features such as bridges and tunnels were built as artistic compliments to this landscape.
Noel B. Weber's mural consists of nine panels measuring 55 x 4.5 m (180’ x 15’) in total. These show the various modes of transport used on the highway and the vistas that can be enjoyed along its length.
Designed by Jennifer Thomas / @hotrodjen
Eleanor Borg took up dance to help overcome Polio and started teaching aged 12. She had an illustrious showbusiness career in New York and served as an aviation cadet in the second world war. She taught dance and horse-riding to generations of children and graduated from college herself at the age of 90.
Designed by Brad Johnson / @bradjohnsonsigns
This was one of the two test murals produced ahead of the main event, a tribute to local bronc rider and steer wrestler Blanche McGaughey.
The Dalles Dip
Designed by Sean Beachamp
In the era before air-conditioning, The Dalles Dip provided a place for locals to cool off in the hot, dry summers. It was located on the Columbia River and consisted of a movable platform with a tall slide, and a tower with a diving board.
Chief Tommy Kuni Thompson
Designed by Jasper Andries / @paintedbyjasper
Chief Tommy Thompson and Chief Henry Thompson were chiefs of the nearby Celilo (Wyam) village. Tommy was a strong advocate for his Indigenous people's rights, including the harvesting of salmon. Current Celilo residents, including descendants of the Thompsons, visited the event and gave gifts to thank the artists.
Benjamin A. Gifford
Designed by Anat Ronen / @anatronen1971
Originally from the Midwest, photographer Benjamin A. Gifford lived and worked in The Dalles for about 15 years from the mid-1890s. He published two books of local photography and was known for his images of Native Americans and scenic views of the Columbia River and Columbia River Highway.
Honald Sign Co.
Designed by Pete Poanessa
Bernard Honald was born in Germany in 1906 and learned the sign trade at Foster & Klaiser in Portland. After moving to The Dalles, he split his time between work for them and his own jobs painting gas stations and movie posters. He formed the Honald Sign Co. in 1958 after buying Foster & Klaiser’s Oregon & Eastern Washington division, and was joined there by his son Gary. The business was sold after Bernard retired, but Gary kept trading with Honald Crane Service.
The Sorosis Club
Designed by Christine Brunk-Deshazo / @brushcris_us
The Sorosis (meaning ‘sister') Club was a national women’s organisation and, among other achievements, played an important role in securing women’s suffrage. The Dalles chapter was formed in 1902 and their work included: preserving Fort Dalles as a museum and historic site; protecting the land that became Sorosis Park; securing grants for the Carnegie Library; improving the city’s sanitation; supporting the Red Cross; and setting up a women’s scholarship fund.
It's a Wrap!
The sun stayed out for the group photo which shows just how many people were involved in producing the work at the Northwest MuralFest in The Dalles, Oregon.