Artist Tom Reed revives Pioneer Avenue mural

The mural of Homer artists on Pioneer Avenue received an upgrade over the past week.

Updates to the mural, which is located on the wall below Nomar, were started last Friday by Tom Reed, the artist who painted the original set of about a dozen characters in September 1985.

The wall was repainted and updated to include additional characters in 2008. The original images are in black and the second set are in gray.

There are a total of 36 character silhouettes across the wall, mostly of performing artists and historic contributors to arts education in Homer.

One of those included is Mary Epperson, referred to as Homer’s “Godmother of the Arts” by Pier One Theatre, which celebrated her legacy Monday at the theater on the Spit. Hosted by Jim Anderson, the event included a potluck on the stage and shared music and stories from Homer artists.

Also included on the wall is Lance Petersen, former Pier One Theatre director and educator at Homer High School who passed away in 2023.

Other well-known artists painted on the wall include dancers Shirley Heusal, Lynne Roff, Jocelyn Shiro and Jill Berryman.

Musicians painted include Atz Kilcher, James “Hobo Jim” Varsos, John Bushell and John Cottingham. Music conductors Mark Robinson and Bob Richardson are also featured on the wall.

The images were created when Reed sought out the original group of artists and asked them to appear at the wall in the evening. Using a portable spotlight, he traced silhouette images and then filled in the middle component.

For other photos, like John Bushell playing the piano, he said he probably used a photograph to create the silhouette.

The wall was originally designed for the characters to be portrayed in order of age from youth at the east end of the wall to the oldest figure at the west.

Reed, now living in Baker City, Oregon, started the 2024 upgrade last Friday and said he expects to be finished within a week, especially if the weather is good.

“The detail work is what takes the longest,” he said.

Reed said when he first started the project 40 years ago, there was some controversy about it because there weren’t other artists consulted about who would get to design it and who would get a place on the wall.

“I was young and it was a lot for me to handle back then,” he said, “but now I rarely come across any negative comments about it.”

A Homer News story from November 1985 reports that just after the mural was completed, it was vandalized by red spray paint and insulting comments, with about $2,000 in damage done.

In that story, Reed is quoted as saying that “if the graffiti was meant to show disapproval of the mural itself, then the critic may be laboring under a misconception.”

The mural, he said, was never meant to represent an official statement about Homer.

“It’s not meant to be our logo, coat of arms, not a flag and not Homer’s wall,” he said. It is just a mural of a part of Homer that is temporal in nature.

The mural still offers a glimpse of Homer’s artistic community’s legacy. It also provides appreciation to performing artists and educators who have contributed to the community.

Reed said he hopes to add a third generation of artists to wall next year.