ST. HELENS — The city's streets will soon see a little more artistic flare.

The "Gallery Corridor Banner" project commissioned by the St. Helens Art and Cultural Commission aims to beautify the main artilleries of St. Helens with aluminum art banners. The first five of possibly 60 are slated for completion and installation in October.

"It's a way to improve the look of the city and make it more inviting for visitors and the people who live here," said mayor Randy Peterson.

Vicky Lynn Wilson's piece "23 canoes of peace" and Zoe Bacon's water scene grace the first two of the five 6-foot-by-2-foot double-sided banners completed. Both artists are based in Portland.

Wilson's banner uses paint that can withstand the elements; shades of blue compose the water, where the red canoes float as symbols of peace.

They refer to the origin of Warrior Rock at Sauvie Island, where, despite being met by 23 canoes full of Chinook warriors, Lt. William Broughton achieved peace with the native people.

Bacon's piece is made of layers of colored metal and added cut-outs of birds and a yellow sun that will move in the wind. (Both pieces are pictured, in part, above.)

Artists applied by filling out a request form posted on the city's website, said Arts and Cultural Commission chair Cathy Lambert. The council then picked the best artists for the job.

"Art is a way to make a city more livable," said commission vice-chair Pam Powell. "The banners will be a conversation piece. It's a way to incorporate art into the city."

The metal banners will replace the tattered cloth banners around the city.

They will be installed in a loop along Columbia Boulevard, Old Portland Road and Gable Road; eventually the commission hopes the banners will encompass all of St. Helens, though it will take five to 10 years to complete the project.

"We want to unify parts of the city and define the city as a whole," said Powell.

Each will be hung on a 20-foot pole and fastened with engineer-constructed brackets that allow the art pieces to slowly turn in the wind.

Wilson's contribution will be installed at the intersection Old Portland Road and 18th Street, and Bacon's at Old Portland Road and 11th Street.

Pacific Stainless in St. Helens donated the sheet of aluminum for the first four banners. One banner will be placed in front of the business on McNulty Way.

"We found sights that needed beautification as well as places that everyone [citizens and commissioners] will be happy with," said commission member Kannikar Petersen.

Commissioners made sure each location did not allow for the banner to tangle with wires and branches and did not obscure views.

Banners will also be placed close to a light fixture for night viewing as well as protection from night vandalism. The pole height of 20-feet will hopefully ward off vandalism as well.

A concern voiced by citizens at the commission's meetings was that the banners would come with a significant price tag. Each banner costs $2,000, with half of the money going to the artist and half for installation.

The city council has written policy that insures a certain percent of the general fund goes towards city art and culture projects. The funding for the banners will also pay for maintenance and repairs.

"This funding for the arts you will find consistent throughout the state and in many other states," said city councilor Doug Morten.

More information can be found at the Arts and Cultural Commission link found at the City of St. Helens website: http://www.ci.st-helens.or.us/.

The commission next meets Sept. 22 at city hall.

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