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On Tuesday evening, 10-year-old Marlon Mejia painted a red flower on an exterior wall of the South Corvallis Townhouses, where he lives.

The flower was part of a landscape mural that was designed by two artists who live in South Corvallis. Willamette Neighborhood Housing Services, which owns the townhouses, hosted a National Night Out event to celebrate the community and the completion of the mural. Local residents were invited to help with painting.

When asked how the mural made him feel about his house, Mejia said it made him feel happy.

Rebecka Weinsteiger, community engagement manager for Willamette Neighborhood Housing Services (and a resident of South Corvallis), said she wanted to bring some public art to her neighborhood. She approached artists Diana Ryan and Dana Monroe, who wrote a proposal to the city of Corvallis for a Neighborhood Empowerment Grant.

“When there are beautiful places in your neighborhood, it makes you feel like your neighborhood is valuable,” Weinsteiger said. “I think that pride in place creates connectivity to your community.”

Willamette Neighborhood Housing Services is a nonprofit committed to quality affordable housing and community well-being.

Weinsteiger said South Corvallis is a low-income, high-density neighborhood that is isolated in the city. She wanted to give people from all over the community a reason to come visit.

The mural, which is behind the Leonard Street Community Garden, features golden rolling hills and a river lined with trees and green ferns.

“We wanted a whimsical natural scene that was fun and just brought joy to the garden,” said Ryan, who teaches art classes at her home studio in South Corvallis.

Ryan and Monroe started painting the mural last month, but they had already started getting the community involved. 

The artists created tall cutouts of a rabbit and frog, which they took to the Lincoln Elementary School Carnival in May for students to paint. The cutouts were then installed into the mural.

“We wanted this to be a community building experience,” said Monroe, who is an art teacher at Lincoln.

Ryan and Monroe hope the project will inspire more murals in South Corvallis.

While the artists recruited community members who were interested in painting lilies, daisies and tulips on the mural, other South Corvallis residents shared a meal. Event organizers applied for and won a Community Challenge Grant from Oregon AARP, which they used for art supplies and food. The meal included entrees from Al Jebal Middle Eastern Restaurant, as well as hot dogs, fruit salad and cookies.

Some children splashed in a kiddie pool, while others rode their bikes on a ramp borrowed from the Benton County Skateboarding Alliance. They snacked on ice pops and watermelon. Some kids danced to music playing from speakers.

A Corvallis police officer and McGruff the Crime Dog also visited the event. The officer distributed stickers to the kids while the mascot posed for pictures.

National Night Out, which takes place throughout the country on the first Tuesday in August, works to promote police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie.

Ken Waters, who lives in South Corvallis, was demonstrating AcroYoga poses with Tam Tilton, who leads AcroYoga classes in Tunison Park on Sundays.

“I think it’s great to see the community come together and join in such a welcoming and happy manner,” Waters said.

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Lillian Schrock covers public safety for the Gazette-Times. She may be reached at 541-758-9548 or lillian.schrock@lee.net. Follow her on Twitter at @LillieSchrock. 

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