High-flying art in Nye Beach

Veronica Lundell, the owner of a shop called Jovi in Newport’s Nye Beach District, hangs one of this year’s colorful banners on Wednesday morning. The banners will be on display until fall and then will be auctioned. (Photo by Steve Card)

NEWPORT — The bright colors of banners hanging from Nye Beach lampposts return this week, as the latest collection of high-flying art takes to the streets of the historic neighborhood.

Home to the Newport Performing Arts Center, Newport Visual Arts Center, a variety of shops and restaurants and the beach itself, Nye Beach is a lively mix of tourists and townspeople. And the banners encourage people to look up and enjoy the creativity of the denizens of the arts district.

This year for the first time, the display will include four banners from Newport’s Sister City of Mombetsu, Japan. Newport resident Wendy Engler suggested a banner exchange during last year’s visit from Mombetsu residents, and the visitors liked the idea. This year, four locally painted banners will be sent to Mombetsu, to be included in a festival in that city.

The idea for a banner project arose at a city committee looking to bring signage to different areas of Newport. “Nye Beach was the area I was most aware of, and many people didn’t know about it,” said Veronica Lundell, who owns Jovi, a furniture, arts and crafts shop in Nye Beach. 

“I thought signage was needed to let people know about the arts portion of the community,” said Lundell, who came up with the idea for the unique banners.

Lundell recalled that during the committee discussion, banners were mentioned. “I thought mass-produced art banners didn’t really speak to the neighborhood,” she said. Instead, she sewed prototypes and brought them to the Nye Beach Merchants Association.

“I thought of the idea of having individually painted banners — to have local artists in the Nye Beach neighborhood create them,” she said, adding that she hoped they would encourage people to leave their cars and walk around Nye Beach to see additional banners. “The idea is for people to discover Nye Beach.”

The banners are painted on front and back — an image on one side and a quote or comment on the back. They go up in June, and when it’s late fall and time for the banners to come down, they are auctioned.

For its first year, Lundell prepared blank banners for local artists to decorate; 35 banners went on display. The next year, a booklet was created to accompany the banners, and that has continued to this day — as has an autumn auction of the banners. Now in its 12th year, the project raises money at the auction to benefit youth programs at the visual arts center.

Throughout the project’s existence, the banner theme has covered any element of Nye Beach. But four years ago, an additional theme was added — the year of the eclipse. The next year, the additional theme was green and gardens, and last year it paid homage to Mombetsu. This year’s extra theme is the year 2020.

The Nye Beach Merchants Association pays for project expenses, including the cost of the banners and the paper for the booklets, and sponsors the banner project with Lundell, who volunteers her time to prepare, organize and hang the banners. A local crafters’ group helps with production, and all banner art is donated by participating artists.

Lundell prepares 10-ounce painter’s canvas tarps for the banners, which are covered with leftover acrylic house paint, most of it donated. A full gallon, she said, will cover a little more than seven banners.

“The original premise was to use leftover paint to prep the canvas so the project wouldn’t cost money to produce,” Lundell explained. After the design is painted, the banners go back to Lundell for clear coating, grommeting, photographing and hanging.

“I’m incredibly grateful to see how much people enjoy the project, and I still hear that people look forward to seeing them,” Lundell said. “It speaks to the strength of the Nye Beach art community.

“It’s a project that has done really well, with the artists having artistic freedom to express themselves,” she added, noting the banners are not juried. “It’s a project built on trust. The artists really enjoy the public aspect of it and that this is a neighborhood, with something for people to see as they walk around. When I hang the banners, people go by and cheer!”

Lundell said many artists have thanked her for keeping the project going in the midst of this year’s pandemic. “It’s a whole other meaning to ‘art therapy,’” she said. “To me, it’s like Christmas to see the banners come in. This year in particular, people have been excited about the project.”

Lundell said this year’s 45 banners are going on display starting this week and continuing throughout June; they will remain in place until fall and the Nov. 15 auction.

And she looks forward to seeing them all aloft. “They reflect the character and spirit of Nye Beach,” Lundell concluded.