“Rio Amistad” mosaic honors our sister city

A river of mosaic tile.
Rio Amistad = River of Friendship.
Art on the Calle Guanajuato stairway.
29 photos.
Artist: Sue Springer.
Ashland Public Art series.

“The Rio Amistad project was just the beginning of an important transition toward recognizing the importance of public art in our community.”

Sue Springer

Origin of the “Rio Amistad” mosaic

Following the flood of New Year’s Day 1997, the Calle Guanajuato corridor required extensive rebuilding. After years of work, the improved flow of Ashland Creek through downtown reduced (but did not eliminate) the danger of another flood damaging Plaza buildings. The redesign also had the goal of making the new pathways and vegetation more park-like and pedestrian friendly. As the Calle Guanajuato stairway was repaired, a new Calle Guanajuato overlook was built at the top of the stairway on Granite Street, where High Street ends at Granite.  

Rio Amistad mosaic by Sue Springer
Rio Amistad mosaic along Granite Street, on the overlook at the top of the Calle Guanajuato stairway. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Ashland residents donated public art to the city as long ago as 1910. However, Ashland did not have a formal public art program until 2002, when the Public Arts Commission was created. The commission identified the overlook above Calle Guanajuato as a good spot for an artwork. In 2005, the Rio Amistad mosaic was the first public artwork installed after the creation of the Public Arts Commission.

As she participated in the dialog for what might go there, Sue Springer knew she wanted to incorporate a water theme and also honor Ashland’s sister city relationship with the Mexican city of Guanajuato. In her 2004 proposal for the artwork, she wrote: “I propose creating and installing a ceramic mosaic ‘river’ that would flow through the overlook area in a circular pattern. The ‘creek bed’ itself would be comprised of ceramic mosaic in shades of dark blue to dark grey to represent water.” Her idea was to “honor the natural flora and fauna of Ashland, Oregon and also of Guanajuato, Mexico,” as will be described in more detail below.

Sister Cities: Ashland and Guanajuato

“The visionary behind the ties between the two cities is known in Guanajuato and Ashland as Señora Chela, a professor emerita of foreign languages and literature at Southern Oregon College (now Southern Oregon University—SOU) who saw similarities between the two cities, including impressive mountain settings, rich cultural legacies and top-notch theater.”

Ashland Amigo Club website

The sister cities of Ashland and Guanajuato share much in common. Both are university towns. Founded in 1732, the University of Guanajuato has nearly 34,000 students on multiple campuses within the state of Guanajuato. Southern Oregon University traces its roots to 1872 and currently has about 6,200 students. With student exchange programs between the two campuses since 1969, “more than 1,000 students, faculty members and others have participated in exchange programs and some families have been involved for three generations. More than 80 marriages have united partners from Ashland and Guanajuato.” [SOU 3/26/2019]

Both cities are cultural centers. “Guanajuato’s counterpart to Ashland’s Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) is the International Cervantes Festival (Festival Internacional Cervantino), an annual three-week celebration that features artists from around the world. The festival is considered one of Latin America’s most important cultural events, just as the Oregon Shakespeare Festival is one of the most prestigious regional theaters in the United States.” [Ashland Amigo Club website]

Both cities have a history of downtown flooding. The river that flows through Guanajuato flooded the growing town periodically in the 1700s and 1800s. The solution was a network of tunnels. “The longest of the tunnels, the “Túnel La Galereña”, was originally excavated in the early 19th century to divert the “Rio Guanajuato” (Guanajuato River) that flowed through the heart of the city. The diversion was required during the wet season, around August, as the river commonly swelled and caused significant flooding. The tunnel was blasted out using dynamite, using the skills and expertise mastered during the many years of mining operations. The river diversion prevented flooding in Guanajuato since the construction.” [from guanajuatomexicocity.com]

Guanajuato, Mexico tunnel
Guanajuato drainage tunnel in 1907. (photo courtesy of SMU Central University Library, from Wikimedia Commons)

After dams were built on the Rio Guanajuato in the 1960s, the long tunnels beneath the city were converted to roadways for cars and buses.

Guanajuato, Mexico tunnel
The drainage tunnels underneath Guanajuato are now used as roads. (photo from Wikimedia Commons, 2009)

The sister city relationship began formally in 1969 with student exchanges between the two universities. Large celebrations were held in both cities in 2019 for the 50th anniversary of the strong sister city bond.

Ashland 4th of July parade 2019
Ashland-Guanajuato 50th anniversary of being sister cities at the 2019 Ashland 4th of July parade. (photo by Peter Finkle)

Rio Amistad’s similarity to other Ashland public art

Sue’s proposal reminds me of other public artworks in town. I recently wrote articles about the three public art sculptures on Bandersnatch Trail, located in the Ashland watershed just above Lithia Park. All three honor the flora and fauna of the watershed. Through that theme, they aim to remind trail hikers of the watershed’s value for Ashland’s past, present and future. 

This similarity with Rio Amistad’s theme becomes clearer when you learn that Sue Springer, along with Stef Seffinger and Pam Marsh, led the effort to place the Bandersnatch trail sculptures.

Rogue Valley creatures, with a twist

Sue incorporates local Rogue Valley creatures, but with a twist. As she wrote in her proposal, “Appearing intermittently in and along the ‘water’ would be the plants and animals that inhabit the Ashland Creek drainage. The animals and plants would be depicted in the rich tradition of Mexican design, in honor of Ashland’s ties to our sister city, Guanajuato.” Here again is the two-fold concept embodied in this artwork: our relationship with nature and our relationship with our sister city Guanajuato. This concept grew to represent a “river of friendship” – “Rio Amistad” in Spanish, as the artwork was named.

Rio Amistad public art
Frogs and other animals represent the Ashland and Guanajuato watersheds. The design choices also represent both countries. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Building the mosaic begins with clay

The first step is making the ceramic tiles, each one hand-made.

The process starts with about 300 pounds of clay mixed with 150 pounds of water in a big industrial mixer. When the clay is the right texture, it gets rolled into slabs. The thickness is critical. Each slab has to be rolled to the right thickness for the project. Since clay shrinks as it dries, that has to be accounted for. 

Any detail work or patterns added to the tiles is done on the clay before it dries. With an animal, the design is drawn on paper first, which is laid over the fresh, wet clay. The thin clay is cut into sections following the lines of the drawing. For larger animals or designs, all the pieces are numbered on the back, following a complex system, in order to put them back together in the design later in the process. 

For the textured pieces and tiny animals and plants seen in pieces of tile, the design is pressed into damp clay before the first firing.

Heat and more heat – 1,800° and 2,200°

These damp tiles get fired in the kiln for the first time, at about 1,800° F. At this point, when the clay is hard but slightly porous, it is colored or glazed. The glaze base is generally made of silica-alumina. 

As a color example, look at the blue “river water” in Rio Amistad. The tiles are darker blue through the center of the “river” and lighter blue towards the edges. Adding cobalt to the glaze gives the color blue in ceramic tiles. The darker blue tiles have more cobalt, the lighter blue tiles have less.  

Glazed tiles are fired in the kiln for a second time. This one is an even higher temperature, almost 2,200° F. The second firing brings the color out as the glaze and the clay merge together. It also makes the clay extremely hard and tight (no longer porous). For the larger slabs, you take a hammer to them at this point and break them up. 

Rio Amistad mosaic in process
At bottom of photo are broken mosaic tiles of different colors. Above them are sections of Rio Amistad being laid out in the studio. (photo by Sue Springer)

The finished tiles were organized in the studio, where they made panels of mosaic tiles, each roughly three or four feet in length and width.  Within each panel, most of the tiles were attached to tile-setting mesh using thin-set cement. However, in spots where panels met or where tiles curved, tiles were cemented on site. This involved more numbering, mapping and keeping track of hundreds of small pieces! 

Here’s what you see

Sue hopes that each time you walk by Rio Amistad, “you will slow down and see something you haven’t seen before.”

Rio Amistad public art
Rio Amistad herons. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Since the flowing lines of the mosaic represent a river, local river animals predominate. The largest animals depicted are herons and steelhead.

Rio Amistad mosaic art by Sue Springer
Steelhead mosaic detail. (photo by Sue Springer, 2005)

Smaller river critters include turtle, snake and salamander. But that’s not all. Sue told me her goal was to engage people, so “we put all sorts of little surprises in it.” This is a busy stairway that people use to walk from Granite Street and north-west of the Plaza into the Plaza and Lithia Park area. Therefore, many people walk by, or even walk right over, the Rio Amistad artwork multiple times each week. With so much detail in the mosaic, Sue hopes that you will stop and see something new each time you walk by.

Rio Amistad public art
Rio Amistad salamander and hand-pressed border tiles. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

There is plenty to see as you stop to view the mosaic. It ended up covering about 320 square feet of the overlook. In that 320 square feet, there are hundreds of tiles imprinted with tiny animals, plants and motifs. As she was designing and making the mosaic, she thought, “What is going to have meaning for the people who are going to interact with it?”   

Rio Amistad mosaic art by Sue Springer
Textured tiles, some with a hand-pressed design. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Notice the variety of tile colors, shapes, designs and textures. I didn’t realize until talking with Sue that the textured tiles have a purpose other than visual interest. They are scattered throughout the mosaic for safety, to reduce the chance of anyone slipping. Also notice the tiles along the border of the mosaic river. Their design is hand-pressed, based on a classic Mexican water movement motif.

The frogs

frog sculpture in Guanajuato, Mexico
Frog sculptures in Guanajuato’s Plaza Hidalgo. (photo from Wikimedia Commons, 2019)

If you have are familiar with Rio Amistad, you may be thinking to yourself, “Why hasn’t he mentioned the frogs?” Here you go. Sue explained, “Those frogs that are in the mosaic, those odd-looking frogs, they are pre-Columbian frogs. Guanajuato is known as ‘the city of frogs.’ They have frogs everywhere.”

Rio Amistad mosaic in process
Pre-Columbian frogs for Rio Amistad being made in the studio. (photo by Sue Springer)

The story goes that the name “Guanajuato” comes from an indigenous language that described the area as “hilly place of frogs.” The frogs in Rio Amistad honor the people who lived in the area before the Spanish arrived.

Rio Amistad mosaic art by Sue Springer
Pre-Columbian frogs in the completed mosaic. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

The Rio Amistad team

This was a big tile project, so Sue had three or four people working on it with her. She said, “I had a great crew. I think we had two weeks to set the tiles in site.” Her primary helper for Rio Amistad was Karen Rycheck, who was working for Sue’s company Illahe Tileworks at that time.

Karen was already a talented mosaic artist. According to Sue, she did a huge amount of the work on this project and a few others. In addition, Karen did a lot of the design work for the tile blocks prepared on tabletops at the studio. You will find a link to Karen’s own public artwork in Ashland, called “Water is Life,” at the end of this article. 

Dedication on November 4, 2005

Rio Amistad mosaic dedication
Dedication of Rio Amistad took place November 2005. (photo provided by Sue Springer)

It was raining the last few days before dedication was scheduled. The team was on the homestretch of completing the mosaic, but working in the rain slowed everything down. They set up tents and tarps over the work site so they could continue laying tile. Sue laughed as she told me they had to keep pushing the water off the tarps as it collected above them, so it wouldn’t come pouring down on their heads. 

Finishing went down to the wire. According to Sue, “We literally were still grouting and trying to clean it up the morning of the dedication. The dedication, as I recall, was at 1:00 in the afternoon. We got it all finished, tarps removed, all cleaned up — just in time. With the dedication planned for 1:00, at about 12:45 the clouds parted and the sun came out. It was perfect timing.” 

Rio Amistad mosaic and boy
Cute photo of boy playing in the “river” during the dedication. (photo by Sue Springer)

Sue Springer’s artistic journey

Art was not encouraged in Sue’s family or in her schools as she grew up. Her B.A. college degree was in foreign language and education. Years later when she lived in Portland, she worked a variety of jobs, including restaurant work. It was here that she first took pottery-throwing classes about 1971 and began to experiment with making pottery at home. She learned to love clay. Her passion grew into a Master of Fine Arts degree at the University of Oregon and a small business that through the years became a larger business.

From 1979 to 1992, her home and studio were in the tiny town of Illahe, Oregon. Illahe is located within the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest about 43 miles up the Rogue River from Gold Beach. The name Illahe “derives from the Chinook Jargon word ilahekh or iliʼi, meaning “land”, “earth” or “country.” [McArthur 2003]

“Illahe” may sound familiar to you, even if haven’t heard of the town. Sue owned Illahe Tileworks in Ashland for about 25 years. For years she owned a tile factory and warehouse on Mistletoe Road. She also opened a showroom and gallery at 4th and B Streets, which my wife and I visited many times to see the beautiful tiles displayed there. In addition to selling custom made tile to high end tile shops nationwide, Illahe Tileworks had public and private art installations throughout the Rogue Valley and Oregon. 

Illahe Tileworks tile

In 2015, Sue closed the Illahe Gallery in Ashland so that she could move to Seattle and be closer to her daughters and a grand-daughter who live there. She was also ready to retire from the grueling work of owning and managing a store and factory, while trying to make art a profitable business. Sue described the life of an artist as a constant balancing act, creating the art that you want to create, while also creating art that people want to pay for, so you have money for food, housing, clothing for your children, employee salaries, business rent, workers comp and unemployment insurance, electric bills and so much more.

She has now retired from running a factory, but she has not retired from being creative. Her new work, as of 2020, features whimsical hand built ceramic sculptures that speak to the challenges of our time. If you’d like to see what she is creating now, this page on her website shows many of her new pieces.

Value of public art

“A lot of people think art is not important, it’s just for beautification. I think it says a whole lot more. So my goal is to always listen to my client, which in the case of Rio Amistad was the City of Ashland.”  

Sue Springer

Created in 2002, Ashland’s Public Arts Commission is relatively young. Rio Amistad was the first installation of the new commission. Sue Springer wrote: “The Rio Amistad project was just the beginning of an important transition toward recognizing the importance of public art in our community. Public art, by its very nature, is artwork created for everyone – from the very young to the very old and everyone in between.  It is accessible.  And it’s something that everyone in the community can feel ownership in.”

When I talked with Sue, she took the idea of public art way back in time. “Public art reflects the community in a number of different ways. It goes all the way back to cave paintings. People felt the importance of telling stories very early in human civilization.” In late Middle Ages Europe, you could think of gothic churches as public art telling stories of those communities.

Art is most often thought of these days as something people have in their homes, or something that lives in museums. Sue wants us to expand our conception of art to include community. “I think there’s a real value in drawing people together and saying, ‘this is what we are about, this is what we think is important.’ As our culture gets more homogenous, it’s harder to express our specific community stories. Because of this, I always had a practice of going to whatever group commissioned the artwork, whether it be a hospital, a municipality or an organization. I would try to understand what they were about.” 

Involving the community in the creation of a piece of public art can help the artwork have more meaning to the community. When Sue led the creation of the “Peace Fence” artwork in front of the public library, it was almost all done by community volunteers, including many elementary school students and their teachers. “I think that if a kid comes in when they’re seven and they see this project being made in their home town, when they grow up and they have kids of their own, that artwork means a lot more to them than if it just appeared out of thin air.”

Good public art connects people with their own memories and with each other. Mosaic art is also about connections, Sue explained. “All these bits of tile are put together to make a whole. My goal is to have someone be able to access the public art, and to have something in that piece mean something to them, beyond ‘it’s a pretty picture.’” 

Rio Amistad public art
Rio Amistad is a river of mosaic tile, a “river of friendship,” and an attempt to touch the minds and hearts of Ashland residents and visitors. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Some comments on designing and building public art

Designing a public artwork involves a lot more than just the art itself. The artist takes the location into account, and so much more. Sue appreciated the help she needed and got from the City of Ashland Public Works staff as she designed and built Rio Amistad. Here are a few of the planning factors Sue described to me.

Freeze-thaw: As described in Sue’s proposal: “The ceramic elements used to create this celebratory art would be designed and fabricated in the Ashland production studio of Illahe Tileworks, and would be made from high fired stoneware clay. This clay has been developed to withstand wide variations in temperature and humidity in exterior locations. It has been specifically tested to withstand the freeze/thaw cycles particular to Ashland.”

Water run-off: Since this mosaic is on the ground, it had to be designed and built so that water would run off of it.

Level ground: You will notice that the mosaic is level with the surrounding sidewalk. The concrete sidewalk construction crew worked with Sue to make that happen. Plywood in the shape of the mosaic was laid over the overlook site’s graded dirt. The concrete sidewalk was poured up to the edge of the plywood, leaving room for the mosaic tiles to be laid flush with the sidewalk.

Earthquake or earth movement

Rio Amistad mosaic in process
Rio Amistad ceramic tile was attached to this Ditra brand orange underlayment. (photo by Sue Springer)

Concrete naturally expands and contracts over time, especially in an outdoor setting where it gets wet. If ceramic tile were laid directly on top of concrete sidewalk, the cracking of the concrete would cause the attached tile and grout to crack within a few years. An underlayment product called an “uncoupling membrane” stops that from happening. Sue used Ditra brand underlayment for the large Rio Amistad mosaic. She told me, “This photo shows bright orange tile-setting fabric underneath, which keeps everything from shifting in case of earthquake or earth movement.”  The design also included an expansion joint, where the mosaic can flex or move when expansion and contraction of the base occurs.

Other artworks by Sue Springer

Sue has a number of artworks in Ashland, including several other mosaics in the city’s public art collection.

Peace Fence mosaic

One much-loved artwork is the Peace Fence mosaic, a collaborative mosaic installed in front of Ashland Public Library, in which Sue “facilitated other people’s art.”

North Mountain Park is filled with nature, history, and art. Two mosaics at the park show Sue’s commitment to involving the community in creating public art. 

“Compass Rose” at North Mountain Park
Compass Rose public art
Overview of the Compass Rose mosaic, looking north. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Compass Rose mosaic is in Ashland’s public art collection, so I will give a brief introduction now, and write a full article about it later. Installed in 2011, Sue designed this colorful story telling mosaic for North Mountain Park. She described it on her website: “The mosaic includes mountains, landmarks and rivers of the surrounding landscape and helps visitors and students alike orient themselves in the natural world.

Compass Rose public art
This detail in the Compass Rose mosaic shows Grizzly Peak, Bear Creek and local flora and fauna. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

“A workshop was held at the Nature Center in August of 2011 which allowed community members to make pieces representing plants and animals which were then included in the mosaic.”

Compass Rose mosaic
Sue (in the middle) with helpers are laying tile to make Compass Rose, on site at North Mountain Park. (photo provided by Sue Springer)
Recology Mosaic at North Mountain Park
Recology mosaic dedication
In 2013, Ashland Chamber of Commerce dedicated the Recology mosaic in North Mountain Park. (photo by Pam Lott)

Recology Ashland hired Sue to create a mosaic that honors recycling efforts in our community. As a result, it is made primarily with recycled materials. This mosaic is a lot of fun to study closely. The round colorful “tiles” are wine bottle bottoms, while other round “tiles” are tin can lids and ends. 

Recology mosaic
Keys, bicycle chains, glass bottle bottoms, steel lids! (photo by Pam Lott)

The city provided bags of old keys no longer in use. Recology offered old electronics and other recyclables. Sue described old bicycle chains as the “coolest thing ever” when she found a way to incorporate them into the mosaic. 

Head on over to North Mountain Park and see what else you can find in the mosaic.

An “art walk” on the Calle Guanajuato stairway

Now take an art walk to the Guanajuato stairway, where you will find Rio Amistad and two other public artworks, Inorganic Compound and Fall Splendor (links to articles below). Read the three articles and then enjoy viewing the three artworks.

Link to the Ashland Public Art Collection web page

https://gis.ashland.or.us/publicart/

Link to Water is Life, public art by Karen Rycheck
References:

Anon. Ashland Amigo Club website. (accessed November 30, 2020) 

Anon. “Ashland, SOU mark 50 years of Guanajuato ‘sister’ relationships,” March 26, 2019 Press Release, SOU website. [accessed 11/30/2020]

Anon. “Guanajuato Tunnels.” (website accessed November 12, 2020)

http://guanajuatomexicocity.com/Guanajuato-guide/guanajuato-tunnels.html

Kitchen, Valerie and Springer, Sue. “Mosaic Public Art Flows through Ashland,” Ashland Magazine, Winter 2006. 

McArthur, Lewis A., and McArthur, Lewis L. (2003) Oregon Geographic Names, seventh edition. Portland: Oregon Historical Society Press. (accessed on Wikipedia November 19, 2020)

Schluter Systems website, information about Ditra brand. (accessed November 19, 2020)

https://www.schluter.com/schluter-us/en_US/Membranes/Uncoupling-%28DITRA%29/c/M-U

Springer, Sue. Interview and personal communications, November 2020.

Springer, Sue. Website SueSpringerArt.com. (accessed November 23, 2020)

Springer, Sue. Website SueSpringerSculpture.com. (accessed November 23, 2020)

https://www.suespringersculpture.com

“Water is Life” – Mosaic Art on the Bandersnatch Trail

Karen Rycheck’s amazing artistic journey.
Honoring watershed animals.
29 photos!
Artist: Karen Rycheck.
Ashland Public Art series.

“In this sculpture, I was trying to make people aware of all the life that is supported by the Ashland watershed; how important it is to keep it clean, not just for our use but also for the wildlife in the area.” 

Karen Rycheck

Try the Bandersnatch Trail art walk

“Water is Life” is a dramatic sight as you ascend the Bandersnatch trail from Lithia Park up the hill toward the Siskiyou Mountains. It is the third, largest, and most complex sculpture you will see on this art walk. If you don’t know the Bandersnatch trail, I give instructions to the trail at the end of this article.

Water is Life on the Bandersnatch Trail in Ashland. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

“When did you first create art?”

Artist Karen Rycheck replied: “I’d say before pre-school. I started taking art classes when I was five with the local art association. My dad was instrumental in that, because he was an amateur photographer.” In her Oklahoma K – 12 schools, she didn’t get much support for art. For example, the art teacher was a football coach and they had to bring their own art supplies from home. 

During her high school years, she thought she would become an architect. Jon Keith Swindell, a professor and mentor at University of Kansas, inspired her to pursue fine art. She also pursued furniture making for a while.    

“How did you become a mosaic artist?”

Karen’s response turned into a fascinating story. “I kind of fell into mosaic art,” she told me. “There was a guy in St. Louis who was a sculptor. He was also a real estate mogul, which is how he supported being an artist. He would buy up old buildings, rehab them and flip them. In the process, he bought a 10-story building that had been vacant for a long time.” The photo below shows the 10-story building after he developed it into a museum.

St. Louis City Museum
Exterior of the St. Louis City Museum. Notice the full size school bus “driving” off the roof. (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

I interrupt the story of Karen’s artistic journey for a brief description of this no-longer-vacant building from the City Museum website: “Housed in the 10-story, 600,000 square-foot warehouse of the International Shoe Company, City Museum is a mixture of children’s playground, funhouse, surrealistic pavilion, and architectural marvel made out of found and repurposed objects. The brainchild of internationally-acclaimed artist Bob Cassilly, a classically trained sculptor, City Museum opened for visitors in 1997.” I looked at the website and wished I could transport myself to St. Louis to see the astounding place they have created. If you want to see it, including a drone video tour, here is the link: https://www.citymuseum.org

In Karen’s words, “He turned the building into a huge art experience. People started donating materials to him. A large donation came from a ceramic factory in Oklahoma, which donated two full truckloads of tile, seconds from the factory, all different colors and shapes and sizes.” What to do with them? The warehouse floors were cement, like a parking garage. Cassilly decided to mosaic the huge expanses of floors, thousands of square feet. Initially a couple women with some ceramic tile experience began laying the donated tile on the floors, a little each day. 

St. Louis City Museum
Intricate mosaics at the St. Louis City Museum. (photo from St. Louis City Museum website)

This brings the story back to Karen Rycheck. One day in 1997 she was waiting by the elevator to go to an upper floor and paint the ceiling. Cassilly saw her there and said, “Hey, have you ever done this mosaic thing?” Rycheck replied, “No, but it looks really cool. I’d like to try it.” He said, “Then go over there, where they are laying tile.” And for the next year and a half she laid mosaic tile every day, 8 to 12 hours a day. It was an intense learning-on-the-job experience, and she has loved working with mosaic tile ever since.

That brings us to Karen’s creative mosaic sculpture called Water is Life.

How “Water is Life” was chosen for this site

Karen submitted a design idea to the Watershed Art Group for a sculptural mosaic piece. She highlighted flora and fauna that are present in the Ashland watershed, especially animals and plants that people might not notice. Her proposal was accepted and she built the piece over the next year or so.

“I like to look at the big picture, and also focus on the tiny little critters and plants that we take for granted or don’t even know are there.”  

Karen Rycheck

This was only Karen’s second sculptural mosaic artwork! Her first sculptural piece, a reclining nude made in 2010 or 2011, is displayed at Paschal Winery in Talent (and is for sale). 

Karen and her “Reclining Nude” mosaic tile sculpture.

Meaning of the sculpture

I asked Karen about the overall meaning of the Water is Life sculpture. She replied, “I was trying to make people aware of all the life that is supported by the Ashland watershed; how important it is to keep it clean, not just for our use but also for the wildlife in the area. [The watershed] supports a lot of plants and animals, many of which are not found anywhere else in the United States. The Siskiyou region is a really unique area biologically, so protecting the land here is really important.” 

Each of the four levels of the sculpture depicts different plants and animals. Let’s learn in Karen Rycheck’s own words what she portrays in each level, starting with the bottom.

Bottom (first) level

Water is Life by Karen Rycheck
Water is Life, bottom (first) level. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

“The bottom layer is imagery of the forests and mountains. I moved here from the Midwest, the flatlands. We went to the mountains on family vacations. That’s where my love of the mountains originated, so I wanted to have that as a base.”

The bottom level shows the Ashland watershed’s “greater ecosystem, a forested mountainous area.”   

Second level

Water is Life by Karen Rycheck
Salamander on level 2 of Water is Life. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

This level honors small, ground-dwelling creatures in the watershed. The small native salamanders live in moist areas near streams. Karen: “They tend to hide out so you’re not likely to see them unless you are looking for them, and that’s one reason I wanted to bring some attention to them. They are dependent on moisture and plant life in the area.” 

Notice the variety of plants in the mosaic design around the salamander. Karen took walks in the area where her sculpture was going to be installed. She found local plants to feature. Near the salamander’s head is a small, easily overlooked native flowering plant with tiny purple blooms. Above the salamander is a fern and by its tail another local plant. The green tiles below the salamander represent the mosses in its habitat.

Water is Life by Karen Rycheck
Rough-skinned Newt on level 2 of Water is Life. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

On the other side of the second level is a rough-skinned newt, another animal in the watershed. Karen explained that “They have a pebbly-textured skin, so I found some tile that had a lot of texture to it.” You can see the texture difference in the photo and feel it on the sculpture.

Delightful details — notice the pebbles

Water is Life by Karen Rycheck
Notice the pebbles the artist found in Ashland Creek and incorporated into her sculpture that honors the Ashland Watershed, its animals and its plants. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Here’s why I like to talk with the artist, when possible. I didn’t notice this detail when I viewed the sculpture. I didn’t even notice this detail as I looked at my photo of the salamander on the second level of the sculpture. 

Take a look at the salamander’s front foot. What is it resting on? Those are not mosaic tiles. Those are pebbles that Karen picked up in Ashland Creek! This truly gives her mosaic creation a sense of place. 

Water is Life by Karen Rycheck
Notice the pebbles from Ashland Creek making up the “creek bed” on level 3 of Water is Life. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Again, look for the pebbles in this detail photo from the third level. The third level features fish amidst the flowing multi-colored blue hues of river water. What is below the water, in the real world and in the sculpture? Pebbles in the creek, and from the creek. I love that creative touch. Learning that little detail helps me appreciate the entire piece even more.

More delightful details — notice the plant leaves

Each of the small ceramic tiles needs to be cut to shape. This is much more challenging in a rounded mosaic artwork like Water is Life than in a flat mosaic. Now look closely at the leaves next to the salamander and the newt on the second level. Unlike all of the other tiles, which have smooth edges, many of the leaves have serrated edges. 

Water is Life by Karen Rycheck
Detail showing the serrated plant leaves on level 2 of Water is Life. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

I asked Karen how she could add that kind of detail to hard ceramic tiles. She explained that most of her tiles with smooth edges are hand cut. However, to create the serrated leaf shapes she needed to use a tile “wet saw,” which has a diamond-encrusted grinding blade. In fact, she had to use different kinds of wet saws to give the leaves their individual details. I haven’t counted the leaves, but that’s a lot of individual serrated leaf creation. 

Third level

Water is Life by Karen Rycheck
Level 3 of Water is Life contains stylized steelhead or salmon. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

A variety of blue-themed shapes, colors and sizes of tiles make up the flowing stream in which the stylized steelhead or salmon are swimming.

Back to details, notice how many tiles shaped as small scales are on each fish. “Each of those little tiles I shaped like scales was hand cut and then ground on a glass grinder to shape the curve better.” Karen added, “At the time I was doing this, my dad was in the hospital. I would go to the hospital with my tile and my nippers and a clear plastic bag. I would sit there and I would nip the fish scales by his bedside. It was my therapy as I was there with him.”  

Fourth (and top) level

Water is Life by Karen Rycheck
The Bald Eagle is soaring on level 4 of Water is Life. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

This is the level of sky and birds. The Bald eagle is soaring above (and within) a green forest in a blue, cloud-filled sky. 

Water is Life by Karen Rycheck
One of Karen Rycheck’s favorite local birds is the Spotted Towhee, here on level 4 of Water is Life. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

On the other side is a Spotted towhee, a favorite of Karen’s and one of the common birds of the Rogue Valley and Ashland watershed. 

How Water is Life was made

I was surprised when Karen told me that the core of each sculptural level was made of 2” or 3” thick insulation foam board laminated together. I had assumed the cores would be made of concrete, but that would have made them much too heavy for a four-level sculpture at this location. The recycled foam board was much lighter than a concrete core would be, and she could hand carve it to just the right boulder shapes. Karen told me insulation foam board is used a lot in creating theater and movie sets. 

Water is Life by Karen Rycheck
“Boulder” base made of foam board. (photo by Karen Rycheck)

The ceramic tiles were attached to fiberglass mesh, which was attached to the foam board base with Thinset cement.  

Here is the bottom level showing tiles attached to fiberglass mesh. (photo by Karen Rycheck)

Each tile was attached individually, glued on with Thinset, a special type of mortar made for attaching ceramic tile. Early in the process, Karen created drawings and a small model of the sculpture. For the flatter areas of each level, she was able to transfer her drawings to the concrete as a guide for placing the tiles. The curved areas were much more challenging and often required cutting tile pieces smaller to make them fit. 

You can see four real rocks in between the mosaic “boulder” layers. She got these rocks at Leave Your Mark in Phoenix. They were kind enough to drill holes through the rocks for her. A long steel rod holds the levels together and anchors them to the concrete base.

Ashland Parks Department staff assisted with Water is Life installation in early 2018. (photo by Karen Rycheck, 2018)

The levels of Water is Life were assembled on site with the help of Parks Department staff. Karen is very grateful for their help!

Ashland Parks Department staff who helped Karen install Water is Life. (photo by Karen Rycheck, 2018)

Water is Life dedication

A dedication had been planned for early 2018, but it was rained out. Karen laughed as she told me a few people showed up anyway, so there was an informal ceremony in the rain. Except that Karen wasn’t there because she had been told it was cancelled!

Water is Life
Karen Rycheck (on the left) and Stef Seffinger of the Watershed Art Group at the formal dedication. (photo provided by Stef Seffinger)

Fortunately, later there was a formal dedication on a sunny day in September 2018. It was held the same day as the dedication of the nearby sculpture “Elevation,” by Cheryl Garcia.

Other artwork by Karen Rycheck

“I love public art. I love the idea of art being free to everybody. I know that there are a lot of people who never get to go to museums, so I like that they can live with it in their community.”  

Karen Rycheck

Karen makes both private commissions and public artworks. As you can tell from the quote above, she loves to create public art, especially in collaboration with others. See examples below of both public and private pieces she has created.

Talent Bee City U.S.A. mosaic

This community mosaic was designed by Karen Rycheck. (photo by Karen Rycheck)
Detail of the Talent Bee City U.S.A. mosaic. (photo by Karen Rycheck)

Karen initiated and designed this stunning 32′ long mosaic for the City of Talent, Oregon. This mosaic flower garden was once a blank cement wall at the base of a stage that is used for music during the Harvest Festival and other gatherings. Karen told me, “People sat there facing the blank wall and I thought it needed to be brightened up.”

She took her idea to the Talent Public Arts Committee, which loved it of course. They presented it to the Talent City Council, where it was approved.

Karen explained the purpose behind this mosaic. “We tried to focus on plants that were host plants for pollinators in the valley, some native, some non-native. We wanted it to be educational, so people could see what kinds of flowers people could plant in their yards to attract pollinators. It’s around the corner from the Pollinator Garden in front of Talent’s City Hall building.”

This is truly “public art,” as over 100 community members worked on the mosaic with her. Following training by Karen, the individual flowers were initially laid out on fiberglass mesh by many different people. Then Karen put them together in the overall design. The mosaic was dedicated on June 22, 2019 after about a year and a half of community creativity.

“Home of the year” in St. louis

Cover of St. Louis Homes + Lifestyles magazine, 2000.

In the year 2000, this house won the “Home of the Year” award given by St. Louis Homes + Lifestyles magazine. All it takes is a brief glance to see how stunning it is. Using plaster, Karen crafted the snake that surrounds the kitchen entry. Wow! Those are seashells circling the snake.

Karen, Red Keel and one other woman designed and laid the ceramic tile on the floor, kitchen countertops and backsplash.  Following the nature and ocean theme, the floor mosaic is a huge squid.

“mosaic marathon” healthcare mosaic

This mosaic designed by Karen Rycheck (pictured) is at La Clinca Wellness Center in Medford.

This mosaic was created during an Ashland conference put on by the Contemporary Mosaic Artists organization in 2015. Karen designed it, but it was put together by attendees of the conference during a “mosaic marathon.”

Tiles for this project were provided by a Los Angeles group called “Piece by Piece.” Karen worked closely with Dawn Mendelson, the Managing Director of the organization. Since 2007, their mission has been to “provide low-income and formerly homeless people free mosaic art workshops using recycled materials to develop marketable skills, self-confidence, earned income and an improved quality of life.” I looked at their website and was very impressed. Here is a link if you’d like to learn more. https://www.piecebypiece.org

This circular mosaic hangs at La Clinica Wellness Center in Medford. When Karen told me that, I immediately thought of Jeremy Criswell and his mentor Lilli Ann Rosenberg. Mosaic artworks by Jeremy and Lilli Ann are also in La Clinica buildings. At the end of this article, you will find a link to the article about Pacific Fisher, Jeremy’s public art sculpture that is also on the Bandersnatch trail.

How to find “Water is Life” on the Bandersnatch trail

Just above Lithia Park, the Bandersnatch trail is one of the easiest Ashland trails to access. It begins near the swimming hole on Ashland Creek. If you are driving or biking, take Granite Street south to the swimming hole, then turn left on Glenview Drive.

Glenview Drive, Ashland

After a short distance, you’ll see a parking area on the right that can accommodate about eight cars, followed by a larger parking area on the left. If you are in a car, park here.

Ashland trails

Near the smaller parking area is a sign that says, “Waterline Trail” and “To Bandersnatch Trail 820′.” 

Keep an eye out for mountain bikers zooming by in this section of the trail because this section is a multi-use trail. When you reach the Bandersnatch trail, it will be only for pedestrians and equestrians.

Ashland trails

You’ll know you are heading the right way if you pass this gate and sign.

You will reach the Elevation sculpture about 1/10 of a mile from the parking lot, while you are still on the Waterline trail. Next to Elevation is another sign pointing to the beginning of the Bandersnatch trail.

Ashland trails

When you see the Bandersnatch trail sign, head uphill a short distance to see the other two sculptures on this art walk: Pacific Fisher and Water is Life.

Built in 2012 for walkers and equestrians, Bandersnatch trail is 1.7 miles long and intersects multiple trails, so you can hike in a loop or just go straight up and back. 

Ashland Public Art series – Links to other articles

Elevation by Cheryl Garcia

Pacific Fisher by Jeremy Criswell

Street Scene by Marion Young

References:

Anon. City Museum website.
https://www.citymuseum.org

Rycheck, Karen. Interview and communications, August and September 2020.
Karen Rycheck kindly shared some of her personal photos with me for the article.

Seffinger, Stef. Interview and communications, August 2020.

“Pacific Fisher” – Art on Ashland’s Bandersnatch Trail

The “Pacific Fisher” by Jeremy Criswell is part of Ashland, Oregon’s public art collection. I am writing an article about every public artwork in town.

Learn how it was made, step by step
Why is it named “Marty?”
31 photos!
Artist: Jeremy Criswell
Ashland Public Art series

Pacific Fisher sculpture by Jeremy Criswell, Ashland Oregon
Pacific Fisher sculpture at its site. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

When I first saw the Pacific Fisher sculpture

My wife and I first saw the “Pacific Fisher” sculpture on the Bandersnatch trail in July 2020. As I climbed the hill and saw the front of the mosaic sculpture, I thought, “This is beautiful.” If you are not familiar with Bandersnatch trail, see detailed instructions for finding it at the end of this article. 

Pacific Fisher sculpture by Jeremy Criswell, Ashland Oregon
Face of Pacific Fisher sculpture, front detail. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)
Pacific Fisher by Jeremy Criswell
“Front” of Pacific Fisher sculpture. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

When I walked around to the back of the piece, then came the “Wow!” I immediately wanted to learn what a Pacific fisher is and about the artist Jeremy Criswell. This article shares with you what I have learned.

Pacific Fisher sculpture by Jeremy Criswell, Ashland Oregon
Face of Pacific Fisher sculpture, back detail. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)
Pacific Fisher by Jeremy Criswell
“Back” of Pacific Fisher sculpture. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Jeremy’s artistic journey

When I asked Jeremy how he started making art, he laughed and told me “As a kid, I was sure I was not an artist. I couldn’t draw. But my grandpa was a potter. So when I got to RCC [Rogue Community College], I took a pottery [ceramics] class. I was fortunate that it was taught by Tom Wilson, who introduced me to sculpture and was an early inspiration for me.” 

This began his process of opening up to what he called “exploring and playing a lot.” His mind opened up to the natural creativity within him. He writes in his Bio: “With ceramics as my anchor, I began to explore other art forms. Painting, sculpture, woodworking, carpentry, and welding all found their way into my life.”

He studied art and ceramics at Humboldt State University for five years, then moved back to Oregon in 2006. He currently makes art in his home studio in the Applegate Valley. He wrote, “I created a space that supports all forms of my artwork, from tile and cement sculpture, to pottery, welding, and woodwork. My primary focus is on art for public enjoyment.”

Jeremy Criswell studio
Jeremy Criswell’s studio, from his website. (photo by Robert Frost)

When he is not making art, you will find Criswell in his fourth year of teaching at Madrone Trail school, a Waldorf-inspired public charter school in Central Point. 

Jeremy Criswell’s mentor

Criswell met Lilli Ann and Marvin Rosenberg when they were in their 80s and still creating public art projects for placement in Oregon and beyond. He and Lilli Ann clicked from the start, and he was her assistant from 2007 until her death in 2011.

Lilli Ann Rosenberg, 2007
This 2007 mosaic by Lilli Ann Rosenberg (pictured) for La Clinica was the first one Jeremy Criswell helped her with. (photo by Jeremy Criswell)

“Everything I know about mosaics I learned from her [Lilli Ann Rosenberg],” Jeremy told me. “For a number of years, I was her assistant. I was her eyes and hands in many ways. My work is incredibly influenced by her. The things that she held important, they became such a part of me … if anything, I think I honor her when I work.”

Lilli Ann and Marvin Rosenberg with sculpture by Jeremy Criswell, 2008
Lilli Ann and Marvin Rosenberg with Jeremy’s first mosaic sculpture (photo by Jeremy Criswell, 2008)

The photo above shows Jeremy’s first mosaic sculpture, made in 2008, which he described as “sort of a self-portrait.” He said: “This was a joyous moment for Lilli Ann and Marvin” because they could see that “what they shared was coming to life in me.”

Lilli Ann had created public art nationally for decades before she and Marvin moved to the Rogue Valley around 1990. In the Rogue Valley, the Rosenberg’s are most known for their incredible ability to engage with people in the community and for their mosaic artworks at many La Clinica buildings. 

In 1978, Lilli Ann’s created what may be her most dramatic piece. It is a 12-ton, 110’ mosaic tile mural installed at America’s oldest subway station – the 1897 Park Street station in Boston. 

Mosaic by Lilli Ann Rosenberg, Park Street subway station, Boston
Mosaic by Lilli Ann Rosenberg, Park Street subway station, Boston. (photo from MBTA)

The Watershed Art Group

The Pacific Fisher sculpture exists because Stef Seffinger, Pam Marsh and Sue Springer formed the “Watershed Art Group” to place public art along a trail above Lithia Park. Their goal — to bring attention to the importance of the watershed. They received support from the City of Ashland Public Arts Commission, with funding primarily from the Haines & Friends art fund. 

They put out a call for artists to propose ideas for a sculpture of a Pacific fisher, an important but little known animal in the Ashland Watershed. When Jeremy began his creative process, he had an idea to include leaves picked in the watershed as part of the design. Criswell’s mosaic design was chosen for this public art commission.

How the “Pacific Fisher” sculpture was made

The first step was design. Jeremy fine-tuned the design he had presented to the Watershed Art Group. Since he makes his own ceramic mosaic pieces, he visualized the colors, textures, shapes and sizes of the mosaic pieces for Pacific Fisher. Then he hand-made all the striped quarter moon tiles for the front side of the piece and the round green tiles for the back side. The glass tiles he used on the back side are hand-made Italian glass.

Ceramic tiles made by Jeremy Criswell
Hand-made ceramic tiles by Jeremy Criswell. (photo by Jeremy Criswell)

He cut out the exact shape and size of the sculpture in 2” thick Styrofoam. You can see in the photo below how he laid out his mosaic design.

Pacific Fisher sculpture by Jeremy Criswell, Ashland Oregon
Styrofoam mold of Pacific Fisher sculpture on slab of clay. (photo by Jeremy Criswell)

The Pacific fisher was built flat on his large work table. Jeremy began with a huge slab of clay about 1” thick, laid out on the table. The Styrofoam cutout of the Pacific fisher shape was laid on the clay for a mold and held firmly in place. 

He pressed the design of glass and ceramic mosaic pieces for the back side of the Pacific fisher into the soft clay, using gentle taps so the pieces would stay put but not sink into the clay. Each of the hundreds of pieces needed to be exactly where he wanted it. Once the mosaic pieces were in concrete, there was no going back!

Pacific Fisher sculpture by Jeremy Criswell, Ashland Oregon
Jeremy at work. (photo by Jeremy Criswell)

About half of the concrete (1” thick) was carefully poured into the mold so it would not move any of the small pieces that were pressed into the underlying clay. 

Pacific Fisher sculpture by Jeremy Criswell, Ashland Oregon
Half of the concrete has been poured into the mold. (photo by Jeremy Criswell)

As the cement dried, it “grabbed” the glass and ceramic mosaic pieces. When the cement was lifted off, the mosaic pieces remained attached to the cement.

After the first half of the concrete was poured in the mold, rebar armature was added for strength and for attaching the piece to its base. 

The second half of the concrete was poured, making the sculpture about 2” thick. While this concrete was moist, the quarter-moon shaped brown ceramic pieces on the other side of the Pacific fisher were placed directly into it. As I listened to Jeremy describe this, I started to get worried the cement would dry before he could apply all 140 or so mosaic pieces exactly where he wanted them. He laughed and told me, “You always have enough time. I used to get very, very frantic and Lilli Ann would tell me it would work.” (Back when he was her apprentice and assistant.)

Pacific Fisher sculpture by Jeremy Criswell, Ashland Oregon
Applying the tiles to the “front” side of the Pacific Fisher sculpture. (photo by Jeremy Criswell)

Working on his own a few years later, he once again would start to get frantic at this point in the process. Eventually he learned a routine to calm himself. “I would mix the cement, and while it was sitting in the wheelbarrow, I would go make a cup of coffee, just to remind myself that I had enough time.” When he told me there was a three-hour time period to work within before the cement dried, I was able to relax.   

“Real” leaves on the base

The base concrete was formed without a mold, using expanded metal lath as the structure. After hand-forming the base from thick wet concrete in and around the metal lath, he tapped the leaf ceramics into place before it dried. 

The ceramic leaves on the base had been created from fresh leaves Jeremy collected in the Ashland watershed. The multi-step process began by pressing the leaves into fresh clay and applying dark glaze around them. After carefully removing the leaves to preserve some detail such as the leaf veins, he fired the clay for the first time. Using a sponge, he then applied multiple colors of glaze to the individual leaves and fired the clay for a second time.

Pacific Fisher sculpture by Jeremy Criswell, Ashland Oregon
This photo shows the metal lath for base. (photo by Jeremy Criswell)
Pacific Fisher sculpture by Jeremy Criswell, Ashland Oregon
This photo shows the still damp hand-formed concrete applied over the metal lath. (photo by Jeremy Criswell)
Pacific Fisher sculpture by Jeremy Criswell, Ashland Oregon
The ceramic tile leaves have been placed in the base. (photo by Jeremy Criswell)

Introduced to the public in June 2015

Pacific Fisher sculpture by Jeremy Criswell, Ashland Oregon
Ashland Daily Tidings, April 21, 2015. (photo from Stef Seffinger)

The Watershed Art Group introduced Criswell’s Pacific Fisher to the public during Ashland’s June 2015 Earth Day celebration, held at ScienceWorks Museum. Then it was on display at the Ashland Library until its October dedication on the Bandersnatch trail. There was even a contest to name the mosaic statue.

Dedication in October 2015

Pacific Fisher dedication October 2015
This photo from the dedication shows John Stromberg, an unidentified woman, Stef Seffinger (Ashland Watershed Group member), Ann Seltzer, and Pam Marsh (Ashland Watershed Group member). (photo by Jeremy Criswell)

About 40 people attended the dedication of Pacific Fisher on the trail October 9, 2015. People toasted the first sculpture on this new “Art Walk” with sparkling cider and cookies in the shape of Pacific fishers. Dave Clayton, a wildlife biologist who has studied Pacific fishers, spoke about their role in the ecosystem.

Pacific Fisher dedication October 2015
Jeremy Criswell keeps an eye on his sons Adrian (on the left) and Alden “riding” the Pacific Fisher during the dedication. In the background, Diarmuid McGuire is talking with Barry and Kathryn Thalden.  (photo by Greta Nikkelsen)

Why is it named “Marty?”

At the sculpture’s dedication, Ashland City Councilor Stef Seffinger explained why this Pacific Fisher is named “Marty.” It honors Southern Oregon forester and ecosystem restoration expert Marty Main.

Seffinger added: “This is somebody who has spent over 30 years working in this forest, who has spent his life educating and making sure that creatures in the forest continue to have a home. That the trees in the forest continue to be healthy. He’s one of the most generous and most wonderful men I know. Thank you, Marty.”

Marty Main
Marty Main teaching in June 2012. (photo by Stef Seffinger)

Marty Main has been a consultant to the Forest Lands Commission since 1995, and he is widely respected in the community. Unknown to Main, several people from the City of Ashland Forest Lands Commission nominated the name “Marty.” He attended the dedication ceremony not knowing the sculpture would be named for him. He told me, “They surprised me. I was embarrassed.” 

What is a Pacific fisher?

Pacific fisher
Pacific fisher. (from the KS Wild website)

I asked Marty Main to tell me a little about the Pacific fisher. He explained that they are in the same family as weasels, and are about the size of a house cat. They are now rare on the West Coast, and a healthy, growing population of Pacific fishers in the Ashland watershed is a sign of ecosystem health in our watershed.

Throughout Oregon and North America, the population of Pacific fishers was decimated by the fur trade in the late 1800s, the use of powerful poisons at illegal marijuana grows in federal forests for decades (thankfully fewer since the legalization of marijuana) and the loss of old growth habitat. Pacific fishers nest and rest in large, older trees. They are nocturnal, so they are not very visible. 

What do they eat? Fish, of course…NO, not fish. Their unusual common name is thought to come from the word fiche (or fichet, or fitch, or fitchet), an old term for the pelt of a European polecat, a related animal that 19th century fur trappers were familiar with. 

They actually eat small mammals like mice, squirrels, rabbits, and one that’s a surprise…porcupines! Marty Main told me, “They are one of the few animals that eat porcupines. They have learned to flip porcupines over to get to the soft belly. They are unique that way.”

How to find the sculpture on the Bandersnatch trail

Just above Lithia Park, the Bandersnatch trail is one of the easiest Ashland trails to access. It begins near the swimming hole on Ashland Creek. If you are driving or biking, take Granite Street south to the swimming hole, then turn left on Glenview Drive.  

Glenview Drive, Ashland

After a short distance, you’ll see a parking area on the right that can accommodate about eight cars, followed by a larger parking area on the left. If you are in a car, park here.

Ashland trails

Near the smaller parking area is a sign that says, “Waterline Trail” and “To Bandersnatch Trail 820′.” 

Keep an eye out for mountain bikers zooming by in this section of the trail because this section is a multi-use trail. When you reach the Bandersnatch trail, it will be only for pedestrians and equestrians.

Ashland trails

You’ll know you are heading the right way if you pass this gate and sign.

You will reach the Elevation sculpture about 1/10 of a mile from the parking lot, while you are still on the Waterline trail. Next to Elevation is another sign pointing to the beginning of the Bandersnatch trail.

Ashland trails

When you see the Bandersnatch trail sign, head uphill a short distance to see the other two sculptures on this art walk: Pacific Fisher and Water is Life.

Built in 2012 for walkers and equestrians, Bandersnatch trail is 1.7 miles long and intersects multiple trails, so you can hike in a loop or just go straight up and back. 

Other art by Jeremy Criswell

Lilli Ann Rosenberg, 2007
Lilli Ann Rosenberg in 2007, creating a mosaic for La Clinica. (photo by Jeremy Criswell)

This piece, now at La Clinica in Central Point, was the first artwork of Lilli Ann Rosenberg that Jeremy helped create. It is still very meaningful to him.

Mosaic sculpture by Jeremy Criswell
Mosaic sculpture by Jeremy Criswell at Applegate School. (photo by Jeremy Criswell)

This tree mosaic Jeremy called “Tree of Living Things” was created in 2017 or 2018 when he was the artist in residence at Applegate School. Every one of the school’s 100 students was involved in creating the artwork. Each one drew an animal or plant, pressed the drawing into clay and then painted it. Jeremy incorporated all of these into the mosaic tree. Look closely to see similarities between his hand-made tiles used in this mosaic and the ones used in Pacific Fisher.

Tortoise by Jeremy Criswell at Cantrall Buckley park
Tortoise by Jeremy Criswell, Cantrall Buckley County Park. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

The tortoise at Cantrall Buckley County Park is one of Jeremy’s favorite pieces because of the way kids climb on it, interact with it and have fun with its colorful personality. 

Finally, what is a Bandersnatch?

I don’t suppose it’s helpful to know that the Bandersnatch is found in the vicinity of the Jabberwock and the Jubjub bird. It might be more helpful to know that it occurs in the follow-up book to Alice in Wonderland, in which nearly everything is topsy turvy.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”

Lewis Carroll, from the poem Jabberwocky in Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, 1872)

More articles about Ashland Public Art

“Elevation” – Art on the Bandersnatch Trail
https://walkashland.com/2020/08/28/elevation-art-on-ashlands-bandersnatch-trail/

Street Scene Sculpture: Who Are These People?
https://walkashland.com/2020/05/26/street-scene-sculpture-who-are-these-people/https://walkashland.com/2020/05/26/street-scene-sculpture-who-are-these-people/

Ashland Public Art map

A map at the link below shows City of Ashland public art, from the city website. Photos of the art are by Graham Lewis.
https://gis.ashland.or.us/publicart/

References:

Anon. “Pacific Fisher is One Cool Critter,” KS Wild website, accessed September 22, 2020.
https://www.kswild.org/imperiled-species-profiles/2017/6/12/pacific-fisher

Criswell, Jeremy. Interview and personal communications, August and September 2020. Jeremy graciously shared some of his personal photos with me.

Darling, John. “Watershed Art Trail: Elusive Pacific Fisher to have prominent spot,” Ashland Daily Tidings, April 21, 2015. 

Darling, John. “Mural artist Lilli Ann Rosenberg leaves a lasting legacy,” Medford Mail Tribune, July 23, 2011.

Dickinson, Alec. “Ashland Watershed Art Trail inaugurated with unveiling of ‘Marty,’” Ashland Tidings, October 12, 2015. 

Main, Marty. Interview, September 2020.

Marsh, Pam. Email communications, September 2020.

Seffinger, Stef. Interview and communications, August and September 2020.

Kestrel Parkway: by Bear Creek

The ‘front yard’ is Bear Creek

Ashland, Kestrel Parkway
The view across Kestrel Parkway to the riparian zone open space along Bear Creek (photo by Peter Finkle)

On a chilly blue-sky day in February, my wife and I walked Kestrel Parkway in the North Mountain neighborhood with one of the “locals.” Sherri Morgan, who showed us around, lives near Kestrel. I met Sherri when she gave an informative talk about fertilizing plants to the Ashland Garden Club. If you enjoy gardening, think about joining the club. Learn more here.

Bear Creek
Here I am enjoying the flow of Bear Creek, just steps from Kestrel Parkway. (photo by Kathy Campbell)

The ‘front yard’ is Bear Creek

It’s quite a spot. The top photo shows the view from a front yard along Kestrel Parkway. To take the photo just above, my wife and I walked across the lawn shown on the top photo, and found a bench along Bear Creek. Had it been a summer day, I may have lingered there for an hour. With the temperature about 40 degrees, I only managed five minutes or so of lingering.

Looking north on Kestrel Parkway from the corner of Fair Oaks Avenue (photo by Peter Finkle)

Kestrel Parkway is only two blocks long right now. It is currently being extended. Towards the end of the article you will see a photo of the road under construction. This North Mountain neighborhood is on the opposite side of North Mountain Avenue from the Mountain Meadows retirement community. Quite new, it has been gradually built up through the past 20 years, with several areas still to be developed.

Kestrel Parkway
Lovely statue in a Kestrel Parkway yard (photo by Peter Finkle)

I enjoy finding creative, lovely or whimsical yard art during my walks around Ashland. This looks like it could be a Quan Yin (or Guanyin) statue, symbolizing the Buddhist goddess of compassion. In the photo below, it looks like angels are visiting the house.

Another artistic Ashland front entry, this one on Kestrel Parkway (photo by Peter Finkle)
Someone in the streets department added some artistry here at the intersection of Kestrel Parkway and Fair Oaks Avenue. (photo by Peter Finkle)

Street art

This circular brick work brightens the intersection of Kestrel Parkway and Fair Oaks Avenue. It provides a feel-good moment as you walk or drive through this intersection.

Here is a close-up of the circular street artistry. (photo by Peter Finkle)
Kestrel Parkway
I enjoyed this very green house on Kestrel Parkway. (photo by Peter Finkle)

I see many dark green houses as I explore Ashland, but rarely do I see a bright green house. This one really works for me, especially in this setting.

bird feeders, Kestrel Parkway
Here is a front yard “bird haven,” offering two kinds of bird food and a bird bath. (photo by Peter Finkle)

The wind gave a spin to this yard art as we were walking by on Kestrel Parkway. It’s a fun one. (photo by Peter Finkle)
Kestrel Parkway, door
I enjoyed the Southwest theme of this door and entry area as I was walking by. (photo by Peter Finkle)
Kestrel Parkway is being extended (as of February 2020).

Kestrel Parkway is only two blocks long right now, but it looks like it will be a block or two longer by the end of 2020. Fifteen small “cottages” with solar panels on the roofs are planned to be built in this area.

This view shows part of the North Mountain neighborhood, taken from the Bear Creek riparian area. In the photo, we are looking across Kestrel Parkway and up Fair Oaks Avenue. (photo by Peter Finkle)

Taken from the Bear Creek riparian area up Fair Oaks Avenue, this photo gives a sense of the current North Mountain neighborhood.

One more view of Bear Creek flowing near Kestrel Parkway. (photo by Peter Finkle)

I will leave you with another look at Bear Creek very near the Kestrel Parkway homes, as the creek flows north towards Talent, Phoenix and Medford.

As part of his contribution to building community, Peter Finkle is walking every street in Ashland and writing an article with photos about every street.  Please subscribe with your email address, and you will be notified each time a new article is published.