Have You Seen Newport’s Murals Yet?

Come to the Historic Bayfront and count how many murals you’re able to find

Newport’s bustling Historic Bayfront is a unique mix of canneries, fish markets, art galleries, gift shops, and various eateries that welcome visitors to shop and dine in a turn-of-the-century atmosphere largely forgotten by time, but documented by stunning murals that help bridge the past and present. More than a dozen of these massive paintings stand alone or adorn various structures that line S.W. Bay Boulevard from one end of the Bayfront to the other, telling a nautical story that is both specific and collective to the area. How many murals can you find, and what do they say to you?

Most of the murals were painted by artist Rick Chambers, and those that were include his signature and the date they were painted and a coded statement about their significance. The vivid detail and life-like images found in the murals convey both known tales of specific events, as well as images that may only be understood by artist. The earliest murals date back to the middle of the 1990’s, and the remainder were painted in the first decade of the millennium. The large paintings still appear fresh and unblemished, despite the rough coastal weather and salt air that they constantly endure.

The Historic Bayfront’s southwest entrance begins under the hilltop grounds of the Yaquina Bay Coast Guard Station, where three billboard murals greet visitors. One of these paintings is a replica of an old Yaquina Bay salmon canning company label, and another is of the aftermath of the shipwreck of “The Pilgrim.” The third mural is of the Coast Guard lifeboat CG36503 being pitched about in a rough sea, and is placed directly below the actual lifeboat, which is displayed in the middle of the Coast Guard campus; the placement of the two boats provides an exciting visual dimension that brings the scene to life.

Midway down S.W. Bay Boulevard, the mural of a Coast Guard helicopter hovers above the street, covering the front of a bay building as if it were conducting a rescue mission; another tribute to the importance of the heroes who guard and protect both locals and visitors. The majority of the murals in the center of the Historic Bayfront are massive in scope, filling storefronts and fish processing factories with both images of daily coastal life and fantastical vignettes from a collective maritime consciousness. Many of the paintings depict fishing boats in a variety of situations, and while a few vessels are calmly docked, beached or being repaired, others are dramatically fighting storms and rough waters to bring another fresh catch into port. Most of these images represent the rigorous, and often dangerous life led by local fishermen and remind visitors of the historical significance of ocean fishing, and that Newport proudly remains home to Oregon’s largest commercial fishing fleet.

Bright fish dart about and massive whales swim, breach and roll in several of the murals, giving a nod to the wide assortment of sea life that reside along Newport’s Pacific coastline. The various species of painted fish and other sea life resemble the live versions that can be seen locally in coastal tide pools, at the Oregon Coast Aquarium, and OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center. Visitors are often able to identify fish in the murals from those they’ve seen and learned about at the Aquarium and the Science Center. Grey whales also provide an exciting part of Newport’s charm, and can often be seen from shore or from aboard charters that specialize in whale watching.

Count how many murals you’re able to spot as you stroll through the Historic Bayfront. Use the murals to connect with the history and culture of the area, and try to decipher the meaning of the paintings that are not clear.  

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