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Eileen Hinckle hopes latest mural work will provide, joy, hope

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During a stint abroad in Peru during her senior year of college, Eileen Hinckle was enamored with the public art that surrounded her and fascinated by the culture that facilitated it.

Much of the South American country is coated in murals created by artists who have nearly unlimited creative freedom.

“There are a lot of people who would be very happy to have a mural,” Hinckle said. “I would just approach a house and say, ‘Hey can I paint on your wall?’ and they would be like, ‘Yes, please, go for it!’ In Peru, there is a lot of graffiti and there are a lot of people who don’t have the means to paint over it. So they kind of just allow it.”

Hinckle grew up in Corvallis and had always dreamed of painting murals for a living, but never had the avenue to get started. In Peru, she embraced the artistic tradition and used the city walls as her canvas. 

The year of hands-on practice helped her art flourish, and she returned home with a portfolio of sensational street art to show off to potential clients. Now, after six years abroad — two in Peru and four in Chile — that featured occasional visits home, Hinckle is a full-time Corvallis resident once again and is using her creative passion to produce art all over Benton and Linn County. 

Whether it be a business-commissioned piece, or a personal project, Hinckle hopes her murals will be a source of happiness for those who see them. 

“Especially if you’re driving by in your car and you’re only going to see it for a couple of seconds, if it can just give somebody a little bit of joy or interest, I think that is really valuable,” Hinckle said. “Especially these days when things are so bleak in so many ways.”

Recently, Hinckle completed a vibrant piece on the back side of Reptopia on Pacific Blvd. in Albany. The commissioned project, for which she collaborated with the shop owners to create the design, took around a week to complete. 

Now, she has moved on to a “Greeting from Corvallis” piece on the back of Common Fields in Corvallis. 

Hinckle is far from the only muralist who is active in the area; a movement called the Corvallis Mural Project was created a few years back by Jennifer Moreland, executive director of the Downtown Corvallis Association in order to create a more vibrant scene in downtown Corvallis.

Since its inception, the Project’s Facebook page accumulated more than 2,000 followers, and its related Instagram account has over 1,300 followers. 

CMP is intended to provide exposure for local artists and link them with business owners who are interested in commissioning a mural at their building. The publicity is crucial, as the community of mural artists in the Pacific Northwest has grown rapidly over the past decade, according to Hinckle. 

“There’s definitely been a huge surge in the popularity in murals globally,” Hinckle said. “I think that’s reached the Willamette Valley and it’s really exciting to see that. Because the Corvallis I grew up in, the Corvallis which doesn’t change very much in my experience, has art coming and it helps. Having new art show up really kind of is a positive change for the city.”

In her personal work, Hinckle likes to focus on elements from nature and the human figure, and she focuses much of her effort on reconnecting humans with nature through visual imagery. Hinckle believes that is particularly important during the environmental crisis that is happening around the world. 

In Oregon, mural artists are particularly dependent on the weather, and rely on the five or six months each year when the rain stops falling long enough for them to tackle projects. Once the winter months hit, Hinckle spends most of her time painting on canvas. 

But there is something particularly appealing to her about making art that is accessible to anyone and everyone. Her murals aren’t constricted to a private gallery or elite space where someone must pay to see them. Rather, her art is given to the whole community. 

“I think it’s an especially important time right now for art to be made and shared because I think it can be a source of joy and hope and I think we are in desperate need of those two things right now,” Hinckle said. “I hope it’s having a positive impact on the space and people who see it.”

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