“Theatrical Heartscape” and the Friends of the Mural

In 1983 painter and teacher Jim Mattingly submitted a proposal to paint a mural in downtown Salem.  The mural was to grace the rear wall of the Elsinore Theater, then a movie theater, but with a long history of vaudeville before the movies.  Mattingly’s proposal was chosen and in the summer of 1984 he went to work.  When freshly painted, the mural looked like this…

The Mural when fresh

Thirty years later the mural is faded and has suffered the ravages of added doors, HVAC, etc…and now looks like this…

The mirla 2013

Jim Mattingly’s idea was to “enrich and beautify the wall facing a major access route into Salem.”  Mattingly chose “…universal figures from vaudeville, early theater and film.”  We can still recognize W.C. Fields, Theda Bara, and Charlie Chaplin.  The mural, of course, has become a beloved landmark for most of Salem…seen daily as we go about our business…but it is slowly fading away.

A group of interested citizens invite YOU to donate to the fund to SAVE and REFURBISH this piece of public art…please consider sending a donation to the Friends of the Mattingly Mural c/o the Elsinore Theater, 170 High Street SE, Salem, OR 97302.  The mural is being refurbished under the auspices of the Friends of the Mattingly Mural (FOMM) with the full support of the board of the Elsinore Theater, and with a restoration plan supervised by Salem’s Historic Preservation officer Kimberli Fitzgerald.  The work will be done by muralist Dan Cohen.  Cohen plans to clean and scrape the mural to remove loose paint, apply an anti-peel product, fill holes and cracks with silicone, match colors and apply two coats of high quality latex, finishing with a clear coat (UV) to preserve the mural.  The FOMM group includes Frankie Bell, Jon Christenson, Eileen Cotter-Howell, Nancy Lindburg, Donnie Mattingly, Ellen Stevens and Mary Lou Zeek.  Now COME ON!  Can you resist that group??

Jim Mattingly was a talented artist who taught for years at then Oregon College of Education (now Western Oregon University) and who involved himself energetically and with great good humor in any number of civic activities.  He died prematurely from ALS a few years ago, and his loss was significant to our art community.  Beyond saving a public art treasure in Salem, a donation to this fund is in a way a memorial to Jim Mattingly and all the work of his life.

Now that the facts are before you, maybe you’d like some of the back story….the mural is 4400 square feet (68′ x 64.5′) and the original cost in 1984 was $20,000.  Half of the funds came from the Salem Streetscape program, some from the Oregon Arts Commission, American Federal Savings and Loan, and private donations.  Jim gave remarks at the dedication in October of 1984…

Jim giving remarks

and also in attendance was then Portland Mayor Bud Clark (here with State Archivist David Duniway in the background…)

Bud, David, Jim

and then they both hopped onto the bank’s roof and assumed Bud Clark’s VERY famous “Expose Yourself to Art” pose.

Scanned Image

on the scaffold

I’ll keep you posted on progress…!


  1. Thank you for this great history, Bonnie, and all the unique photos. (Surprised to see the one with the guys exposing themselves to art.) Hope we can restore the mural as a most compelling and colorful feature of public art in downtown Salem.

  2. Ditto to all the above – many, many thanks. Please know your posting may go viral – certainly around Salem via many Facebook sites. Many fans are waiting for hoped for start date of August 26th

  3. Engaging post of this mural and its history. What a project this restoration is! Congratulations to the hard working FOMM group. (have one of the original “expose yourself to art” posters…Theda seems unimpressed with this iteration)

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