By Matthew Denis
Public art brings character to a locale, reflecting a municipal culture and its diverse population.
In the past five years, the city of Springfield has pursued an initiative to show off its history, customs and beliefs through murals and sculptures. To further civic pride, Springfield is offering people the chance to bring a graphic representation of these efforts home.
The new “Springfield Oregon Retro Art Series” celebrates new city landmarks with a limited edition set of posters commissioned by the city and designed by artist Chloe Bradford. Memorialized with a vintage feel are the Springfield Flame, the Oregon Women Veterans Sculpture and the downtown Ken Kesey mural.
When Springfield officials first considered this project, Bradford consistently stood out.
“We looked around at different ideas for posters and had some examples because the retro look is popular, but as far as the design and things like that go, it’s her talent that makes it shine. I think she just blew us away with what she was able to do,” said Amber Fossen, city of Springfield public information officer.
Bradford had an inside edge as she’d been designing with the city for years. These projects leaned toward the more utilitarian with templates to streamline communications, concocting social media icons, designing a greater Eugene-Springfield brochure, etc. When Springfield proposed a more artistic project, Bradford was on board to test her creative chops.
“I always like pushing myself,” Bradford said. “This is not a norm project for me. I do more logos and brochures and stuff like that, but I’m always trying to push myself into new art styles.”
Bradford met with city planners first in the fall of 2017 with a plan to apply a vintage look (similar to old WPA posters) to a poster that commemorated artist Devin Laurence Field’s Springfield Flame. With the Flame in the foreground, this also was an opportunity to squeeze in multiple municipal details and proud symbols.
“If you look closely, you’re going to see other landmarks, like the Springfield Museum tucked down there with the Shoppes at Gateway,” Fossen said.
With the Flame prominent, the Willamette River flows behind, splitting the background that gives the shops room to breath with the Cascades crowning the scene. It’s a breezy image that belies the enormous amount of time and consideration put into the project.
“It takes about three months for me to create,” Bradford said. “There’s a lot of details, so I have to go to the site, take pictures and then research the different elements to see how they fit together. There’s a lot of playing around with elements to see how it fits together in a way that makes it look natural.”
When Bradford returned her proposed image for the Flame, the city was so excited they requested two more pieces: a panorama of the downtown stretch that included the Ken Kesey mural and a piece that captured the image and spirit of sculptor Rip Caswell’s “The Lionesses” — 2017′s tribute to women in the military in Springfield at the corner of I Street and Mohawk Boulevard.
“The Lionesses” proved to be a particular challenge to Bradford because it’s meant to be viewed in three dimensions. The designer had to determine how to fit all three cats into a two-dimensional frame that provided depth along with a multitude of symbolism.
“I had to represent the different branches and the city was also asking me to throw in some iconic imagery that relates to it,” Bradford said. “So the African violets represent togetherness and hope. The rock (they’re perched upon) is the Army. The anchor with the rope on the right hand side is supposed to be the Navy and Coast Guard and Marine Corps linked together with the rope. And then the rattlesnake is readiness to defend and preserve the United States. And the falcon up in the left-hand corner is Air Force.”
The poster came out so well that even Caswell, the sculptor lauded its merits on Facebook. And Springfield couldn’t be happier.
“She’s really brilliant,” Fossen said. “We’ve given ideas she’s taken and ran with to come up with something really dynamic. Now it’s this labor of love that we put it out into the world.”
With the project’s success, this joyful toil won’t end here. Ideas for additional swag such as postcards and other easily portable items are in the process. For now, however, a limited run of posters will be available for sale for $15 each and $40 for a set of three at the Springfield Museum and at the Eugene, Cascades & Coast Adventure Center in Springfield.