Morgan Harness, who just celebrated her 4th birthday, poses beside the Marjorie Scholl mural, in which she is pictured flying a kite. The mural, which was unveiled Friday on the side of Fat Olives is one of the last works to be installed under a $150,000 ArtPlace America grant that funded public art and artists’ residencies in Old Town.-Photo by Mercedes Harness

Morgan Harness, who just celebrated her 4th birthday, poses beside the Marjorie Scholl mural, in which she is pictured flying a kite. The mural, which was unveiled Friday on the side of Fat Olives is one of the last works to be installed under a $150,000 ArtPlace America grant that funded public art and artists’ residencies in Old Town.-Photo by Mercedes Harness

New art for Old Town

For most of August, the outside wall of Fat Olives nearest the Sterling Highway has been covered with a plastic sheet protecting Homer artist Marjorie Scholl’s newest work.
On Friday, surrounded by friends, family and arts supporters, the 15-year-veteran-artist and Lisa Nolan of Fat Olives unveiled the 9-by-20.5-foot, acrylic-on-cement mural, “Old Town Memoir.”
Although on a much larger scale than she has ever worked before, the mural is similar to Scholl’s previous works.
“I used the same paints I’m used to and the same colors I like. I approached it the same way as far as the composition process. But it was different in that five-by-seven is probably the biggest I have ever done before this time,” Scholl said. “The time it took was longer. The wall texture was different — I had to work harder to combat the little crevices and pockmarks.”
The colors most fascinating to Scholl are pink, green and blue. Contrasting with the purples and grays of “Heavy Metal,” her recent show at Alaska Pacific University, Scholl said she could “not get enough of ice blue — even underneath green.”
“Green-gold was what I used on this one. And the pink I love in the fireweed. I just love the way these colors blend. Acrylic paints don’t always blend well, but these do really well together,” she said.
The flowers on the piece, most of which blend in with the flowers growing in the rock garden, were a last-minute addition.
“They were so pretty and I thought that it was going to be so sad in winter when they were gone. So I added them in and the fireweed,” Scholl said.
Steve “Tiny” Nolan, who owns Fat Olives with his wife, Lisa, said he liked that touch.
“She painted flowers to match the rock garden, so we have a garden all winter,” he said.
Scholl, who works part time at Sprout as the playgroup coordinator, had a little help from the kids and families enrolled in the program.
When friends and family visited Scholl as she was working, she would let small kids make a mark on the painting. She gave them the chance to experience painting something that’s a little bigger than what goes on the fridge at home.
“I’ll gauge a child. I’ll guide their hand so that they won’t go haywire,” she said. “I do it to build up their self-esteem a little. I want to make painting approachable.”
The child depicted in the mural is Morgan Harness of Homer, who has outgrown Sprout’s Birth to Three program.
“I met Mercedes and Ben (Morgan’s parents) through Sprout playgroups. Around the time Lisa asked for a girl flying a kite and fluffy clouds, I thought that I hadn’t seen them (the family) in a long time. So I emailed them first. I didn’t want them to feel any pressure. I wanted Morgan to represent the whole community.”
The Harness family is one of kite-flying enthusiasts.
“It was really meant to be that way,” Scholl said. “One of their things is watching kite flyers on YouTube.”
Morgan and her family came to see the mural after the crowd dispersed on Friday, said Teresa Heilig, Scholl’s sister.
“She came in the same dress she’s wearing in the picture and had her picture taken. It was really nice.”
“Old Town Memoir” was funded by Fat Olives and The Old Town Artists in Residence program through Bunnell Street Arts Center, Scholl said in an interview Sunday afternoon.
The mural is one of the last works to be installed or done in Old Town under a $150,000 ArtPlace America grant that funded public art and artists residencies. Other public art includes a fireweed mural painted by Dan Coe, installed on the Driftwood RV Park fence on Bunnell Avenue, a bench by Breezy Kallens by Bunnell Street Arts Center and poet Wendy Erd’s Poems in Place project along the Beluga Slough trail.
The ArtPlace America grant also funded residencies by African dancer and drummer Shelly and Soriba Fofana, performance artist Allison Warden, sculptor Adrian Segal and, for this September and October, artist Elizabeth Emery. Ephemeral art pieces included Jarod Charzewski’s buoy sculpture on Bunnell’s front porch and “Looking for the Sublime at the End of the Road,” by James Riordan, Michael Gerace, and Jesus Landin-Torrez III, a sculpture on Bishop’s Beach.
Gardener Rita Jo Shoultz also designed a garden by Bunnell, and the city contributed improvements like adding a walking lane on West Bunnell Avenue and paving the Bishop’s Beach parking lot. A sign and bike rack will be installed at Bishop’s Beach. Artist Mike Houston also painted a historic Old Town sign, installed at the Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center.
“Every one of these projects involved some kind of public-private partnership,” Freeman said.
Anchorage artist Rachelle Dowdy is finishing another Old Town AIR art piece, an anthropomorphic loon sculpture. An ordinance to accept the art and install it at Bishop’s Beach park is up before the Homer City Council at its Sept. 22 meeting.
“This is a project that matured at the end of the program,” Bunnell Street Arts Center Asia Freeman said of Scholl’s mural. “We were looking for one more site that fit in with the remaining funds we had.”
The relationship between the Nolans and Scholl extends back more than 15 years.
“I used to cook for them, back before I had kids, back when they owned Café Cups. When they opened Fat Olives, it has such great wall space — not a lot of galleries even have that kind of space — I asked if I could hang something in there,” Scholl said.
Scholl did a show, “Cityscapes,” at Fat Olives in March 2009.
Tiny Nolan said they also had shown some of Scholl’s work when the Nolans had owned the Homestead Restaurant.
“We’ve been fans of her from that time,” he said. “I’ve been wanting to do a mural on that wall for more than eight years. I wanted Marjorie to do it.”
Tiny Nolan credited Freeman with making the mural happen.
“I feel like Marjorie and the Nolans are two bricks that she cemented together,” he said.
“We hadn’t seen much of each other in the last couple of years. It was a really awesome way to reconnect,” Scholl said.
Lisa Nolan also enjoyed the recent time together.
“I’d come out and peek around the corner and just see her in the zone,” she said of watching Scholl work during the month-long creation process.
Tiny Nolan said he also watched the work progress.
“I’d never seen an artist work like that. It’s an interesting and beautiful process watching the whole thing,” he said. “She was out there some days for eight hours, maybe nine hours easily.”
Scholl was asked to do the piece in the middle of July, but was unable to get started immediately because of commitments to her “Heavy Metal” show for APU. She began work on the mural in early August.
Scholl continues to display other works in Fat Olives Restaurant and at its new coffee shop. The Anchorage Museum also recently purchased a painting for its permanent collection. She will also bring her “Heavy Metal” show to an October First Friday reception at Fat Olives. Five pieces from that original show sold at APU; she’ll bring eight original and two new pieces for that show.

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