If you haven’t noticed the flurry of mural activity happening around downtown Corvallis, you might be suffering from retinal burnout due to staring at the eclipse for too long. There have been numerous murals springing up around town, and Corvallis native Eileen Hinckle is responsible for two of them.
Born and raised in Corvallis, Hinckle first started working on murals while attending Mountain View Elementary School as a child. Local artist, Dale Draeger, was commissioned to paint a mural in the school’s hallway. Draeger invited a few students to participate in painting the mural with her, and Hinckle was one of the chosen students. A seed was planted. Later, Hinckle would go on to use this experience from her young life to give back as a mural artist and inspire creativity in children.
As a college student at Northwestern University in Chicago, Hinckle minored in Spanish. Her love of the Spanish language led to an opportunity to move to Peru and finish college through an exchange program. Part of the requirements of the exchange program entailed doing a volunteer project in the community. Hinkle proposed doing a mural at a local elementary school, including children to help paint it, just like Draeger had done. The program allowed her to do it, and ever since, Hinckle has been leading collaborative murals with children in schools and community centers throughout South America.
Now, Hinckle is bringing that spirit of collaboration to our streets by participating in the Downtown Corvallis Mural Project. The first mural she painted is located on the side of Peak Sports, which also sponsored the work. It is a Northwest outdoor scene mural, and is comprised of mostly blue hues, complete with Mary’s Peak in the background. The foreground is composed of golden fields inspired by the bike rides Hinckle has gone on along Peoria Road.
“Context is really important to me. Where I am painting. Whose building it is. Who is going to see this mural every day. I also try to incorporate something local in each mural. Like Mary’s Peak,” Hinckle said.
While painting the Peak Sports mural, the property manager of the parking lot beside Mongolian Grill on 1st Street asked Hinckle if she would be interested in doing a project for a wall in their parking lot. After a few sketches were exchanged, a portrait piece—including a sky scene of the eclipse in totality—was the chosen design. It’s still a work in progress as I write this story, but it should be completed by early September.
Hinckle uses mainly spray paints and exterior house paints for her creations. Her style incorporates a minimalist approach along with a worldly flair she attained from traveling. A love for flora and foliage shows through in all of her work. The Mongolian Grill wall has multiple swordtail fern fronds in the design, and the female portrait subject holds a tomato plant in her hands.
When asked what it is about murals that speaks to her, Hinckle responded passionately, saying, “I like that they are in the public space. I like that people can see them every day, as opposed to being in a designated art space like a gallery, which a lot of people just don’t go to. It reaches a lot more people and goes outside of the art world, if you know what I mean. Breaks down the barrier between the art world and the real world for me. Art tends to be in really elite spaces. The street and the alleyway is the opposite of that. It only exists in the space/place where it was made. It is very closely related to the time and space that it was made in.”
When Hinckle is done with this project, she will get on a plane and return to Chile. She assures me that she will be back again to visit her family, and, to hopefully, paint more murals. As we ended our interview, Hinkle shared what it meant to her to paint murals in the place where she grew up.
Hinckle said, “It is surreal to me to think that I can come home to my little hometown and paint murals. I would not have even thought that it was possible. There is so much power in the transformative aspect of public art. It gives people something to be proud of in their community.”
Jennifer Moreland is the creator and curator of the Downtown Corvallis Mural Project. For more information, visit their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/
By Jennifer Moreland