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In One Ear: An appreciation of detail

Jo Brown’s murals
By Elleda Wilson

The Daily Astorian

Published on December 15, 2017 12:01AM

Fun rerun from Oct. 19, 2012: When both of the Builders Supply businesses closed, artist Jo Brown wondered what would happen to the history-inspired murals she and her son, Josh Brown, created in the buildings.

“Randy Stemper saw me doing a mural behind Sears in 2001, and we exchanged info,” Jo told the Ear. “When his new store was finished, I started a seven-year collaboration of researching photos and local stories while painting those results 10 to 20 feet up on scaffolding.”

In the Astoria store, “the west wall shows Astoria’s shoreline from 1936, inspired by a photo given to me by the Compleat Photographer folks,” Jo explained. A small segment is pictured. “I had to work the murals around my other work commitments during this time,” she continued. “Randy and his employees would put the scaffolding up when I came back into town, and sell it after I left.”

The southeast four bays in Astoria have images of a fisherman’s house and drying seining nets, a blacksmith shop, pipe layers and an Astoria city street.

“Randy said, ‘All good things take time,’” Jo noted. “This quote is in one of the murals. My son, Josh, helped me finish the last two southeast bays, and then he went on to the Gearhart store and did those murals by himself.”

The Gearhart murals also cover historic subjects. The entire west wall is the Gearhart Inn. The north wall has five bays, including a locomotive, Tillamook Rock Lighthouse, downtown Gearhart, the train station and an indoor pool.

Thanks to Jan Heald Robinson, director of Revitalization Partners, the murals in both stores were able to be photographed in detail, so they are preserved digitally. You can see them here:

“Randy’s appreciation of detail,” Jo added, “and my love of this historic city, made this one of my best muraling experiences ever!”

Note: The Columbia River Maritime Museum now owns the Astoria building and uses it for storage. The museum’s curator, Jeff Smith, noting that the murals add “historical ambiance,” assured the Ear that they are preserved, and safe.


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