WALLOWA — By the end of July, the Wallowa City Library will sport a bright new look — an imaginative storybook mural now underway by local artist Anna Vogel.
The mural, envisioned by retiring librarian Debbie Lind, designed by Vogel and approved by the library board, covers the entire 45-foot-long, 17-foot-high west wall of the building. It shows a young girl voyaging from night into day through a world of stories and books.
To ensure its longevity, Vogel is using special weather-resistant acrylic paints that are made especially for outdoor murals. And Vogel will also be applying a final coat of protective varnish when the work is complete.
“It’s a project for the whole community to enjoy,” she said.
Vogel, 29, is a relatively new arrival to the art scene in Wallowa County. She grew up on Mercer Island, Wash., in the San Juans of Puget Sound.
“I always wanted to be a painter,” she said. “It just seemed like the only thing to do.”
Her parents, both technology professionals, tried to steer her into something more practical, like graphic design. But that just seemed boring to Vogel.
“It didn’t have much creativity,” she said.
She graduated from Lewis and Clark College in 2013 with a degree in art, specialty in painting, and has never looked back.
Vogel and her partner, Bjorn Hansen, moved to Wallowa County in 2014. He grew up in Wallowa County, and today develops apps and software. Vogel dug out her brushes and went to work painting.
“Coming here provided a lot more opportunity than if I’d been in Portland or Seattle,” she said. “In bigger cities you have to be established with some sort of connections to get work. People here were more willing to take chances on the work of a young artist. It’s been really nice to feel so welcomed.”
Vogel’s Wallowa County career took flight when friend and wood artist, Kelly Riggle, introduced her to Lostine wood artist Steve Arment in 2015. He was impressed by Vogel’s talent.
“He would encourage us to get involved more in art, and he’d co-opt us to help with art and woodworking projects he was doing,” Vogel said. “So I started doing some of the painting on his carvings and signs.”
That led to doing the artistic designs of signs. Like Arment, she preferred the whimsical and imaginative. She helped with the new “Welcome” signs for towns, including Wallowa and Enterprise. Her work appears at the OK Theatre and the Range Rider. She designed and painted the sign for Moonshine Glass. And even did one of the murals on the side of Hurricane Creek Coffee.
Lately, her work has taken on bigger proportions. In late June, Vogel and Arment hung new wooden doors on the south side of the Valley Bronze Art Gallery in Joseph. An impressive 11 feet high and 11 feet wide, the doors open to allow large sculptures and other artwork into (and out of) the gallery. The art on the doors is Vogel’s design, carved by Arment and then painted by Vogel. The result is a colorful bas relief that depicts local landscapes, complete with aspens, mule deer, birds — including a sharp-shinned hawk and two blue grouse — and, of course, mountain scenery with a cold creek tumbling over granite boulders.
That project transformed Vogel into a muralist — a painter who likes to do large works in public places. Although she has taught classes in oil painting at the Josephy Center, Vogel feels more drawn to bigger art forms that catch the public’s eye.
“I like doing big public projects,” she said. “I like the fact that my work is not just going in one person’s house, but it’s being seen by everyone who passes by. You’re also working with people in the community to figure out what they want and then giving that to them.”
Vogel likes public projects because “everyone in the community feels proud of their mural. You find ways to include your own vision, too.”
Vogel is looking forward to exhibiting her regular-sized paintings in shows at Pendleton’s Art Center East and a joint show with Steve Arment in Baker City. She has worked with Darrell Brann to develop a gallery of her own, the Lost Planet Gallery, in a small space that’s part of the OK Theatre. She’s hoping to do another big mural in Enterprise.
“I’m just seeing what’s possible at this point. But art in a vacuum, working like a hermit by myself, is not my passion,” Vogel said.