Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney, whose belief in Salem’s historic YMCA led to the passage of a 2017 Oregon bill to fund its reconstruction, says he also supports the preservation of the Salem cultural treasure, the Peace Mosaic that is currently attached to the YMCA’s exterior walls.

The mural, River of Peace, was created with over 25,000 porcelain, glass and stone tiles in 2011. It is the work of mosaic artist Lynn Takata with the participation of over 600 community members from all walks of life, from ages 2 to 92. The mosaic contains images of animals, birds and mandalas and a poem of Paulann Petersen, Oregon Poet Laureate Emerita and words from Native American spoken artist Miguel Loredo Reyes.

“Art can always use an advocate,” Courtney told Salem Weekly, “and my office has been working with The Y and the artist, Lynn Takata, to see what we can do to encourage the Salem Public Arts Commission to find the Mosaic a new home.”

In its May 9 meeting, the Salem Public Arts Commission, a City of Salem board containing citizens with expertise in the arts and architecture which oversees the City’s public art collection, discussed the mural’s future.

Commission member Nathan Good of Nathan Good Architects PC made a motion to recommend to the YMCA that they consider ways of including the mosaic in its entirety in the architectural drawings for the new YMCA building. That motion passed.

Good made another successful motion for a conservator to perform a structural evaluation of the work and provide recommendations for its future.

This meant that Portland’s Architectural Resources Group [ARG] got the go-ahead for a proposal it submitted to the City of Salem to study the options for the mural. The work will include structural assessment of the wall that the mural is attached to, including possibly making small exploratory openings into the existing walls from the interior and exterior for use of a borescope.

“Understanding exactly how the wall is constructed and how the mural is attached is critical to creating a move plan,” ARG wrote in its proposal. The City also has directed ARG to review its findings and recommendations with the mosaic artist Takata. The analysis will take approximately 1-month.

Based on its findings, ARG will develop recommendations for handling the mosaic as decisions about its future move forward.

Sen. Courtney will be following the Commission’s work. “I look forward to hearing what they plan on doing,” he says. “Art is an important part of any community. It has the power to bring people together, to start discussions, to make people reflect, and to inspire.”

Though the old YMCA building must be demolished for its new facility, Courtney notes, “I am supportive of preserving the Peace Mosaic and finding it a new, prominent home for future generations to enjoy.”