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True Community Art - The Dunsmuir Mural


“If tiny Dunsmuir can create something this beautiful, so can your community!” Those were the words of Helen Cartwright of the Dunsmuir Downtown Historic District Committee about the mural in downtown Dunsmuir showcasing the best of everything the town has to offer.

The mural, completed in August 2008, depicts a sleek Union Pacific train moving along rails next to the Sacramento River where a fisherman ties on a fly with Mt. Shasta in the distance. Renowned Dunsmuir Artist and railroad historian John Signor designed the mural using inspiration from past and present. The train engine is depicted using the current colors of the Union Pacific trains and the second car honors Southern Pacific Railroad, which operated out of Dunsmuir for many years. The angler is portrayed in a retro style that Signor found on a Northwestern Pacific Railroad brochure from 1917.

Artists Ken and Judy Michaelsen of McCloud then took Signor’s design and painted the image on the Pine Street wall of the Hotel Dunsmuir using a system of harnesses and scaffolding to reach the three story height of the building. Since the mural has been completed it has become a source of community pride prompting the vision of more downtown improvement projects including another mural, historic building façade renovations and a dogwood tree planting project. Commenting on the project, Helen said, “We feel we’ve set a new tone of excellence and pride in our historic district.”

This mural could not have been completed without the help of the community. Over 100 local residents gave to the project, showing their support in the beautification of Dunsmuir’s historic downtown. Additionally the project received sizeable grants from the Union Pacific Foundation and Pacific Power. A grant of $2,500 from the Community Foundation’s Community Building Arts Initiative rounded out the contributions allowing the acquisition of safe high rise scaffolding so that the height of the mural could be complete.

“The Community Foundation is an enthusiast of public art. When the occasion to support this project came along it seemed to be the perfect opportunity to not only promote public art but community art as well. The way the mural reflects local culture, designed and painted by local artists, is exactly the type of project we looked to fund through the Community Building Arts Initiative,” said Kathy Anderson, CEO.

Today the Dunsmuir Downtown Historic District Committee invites Northstate residents to take a day trip, view the mural, grab a bite to eat from the array of Dunsmuir restaurants and take in all that Dunsmuir has to offer. Their advice to the other small cities seeking to put a new brand on their community is to “go for it; you never know what you can achieve till you try!” To view a larger photo of the mural or other community art projects funded by the Community Foundation visit our photo gallery.

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