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Downtown mural creating buzz
Because the wood paneling on the front of 216 E. Main Street is cost-prohibitive for the owners to remove, a mural is going up. Volunteers Carol Neal, left, and Pat Bigbee are spending their quarantine days helping to beautify downtown like busy little bees. - photo by Lisa Hobbs

A piece of artwork is being added to Main Street that promises to bee-autify a once unsightly storefront and remind visitors that McMinnville is the Nursery Capital of the World.

“Without bees, we wouldn’t be the Nursery Capital of the World,” said volunteer painter Carol Neal. “That’s where our inspiration came from for this piece of artwork.” 

Neal and Pat Bigbee have been busy little bees over the last week as they paint a colorful mural on the front of 216 E. Main Street dedicated to the creatures that keep plants and crops alive. The building’s storefront was slated to have its wood paneling removed. However, financial constraints derailed the project into a renovation instead.

Helping Hands Ministry, a nonprofit organization, owns the building. Rachel Killebrew financed the wall’s renovation, while Neal and Bigbee volunteered to paint the mural.

The two are cognizant of Gov. Bill Lee’s order to “do your part; stay apart.”

“We are working together on it, but staying six feet apart,” said Neal, who has been painting honeycombs. “Now, we coordinate with one another and try to work at different times. Staying apart hasn’t been a problem. Even when people stop by, they’ve kept a healthy distance away. Practicing social distancing hasn’t been a problem.” 

The endeavor is keeping the two busy.

“This project gets me out of the house a little,” said Neal. “It’s keeping me from going nuts.”

Bigbee added, “It has been fun. I’m painting the honeybees. They aren’t finished yet. I’m almost ready to add black stripes.”

A photo opportunity will also be available. In the middle of the mural are large bee wings. Visitors can stand in front of the wings as its body and have their photo taken.

The mural will also provide words of inspiration, such as “Bee Kind,” “Bee Happy,” “Bee Yourself” and “Bee Well.”

Bees are estimated to pollinate up to one-third of the crops we eat. Humans would face a future without fruits, vegetables, nuts, and oils if bees go extinct. Over the last decade, the black-and-yellow insects have been dying at unprecedented rates both in the United States and abroad. 

The project is in its second week. A completion date has not been set.