No Starving Artists

The Dalles Lions keep painters fed as they transform their town

The Lions of The Dalles, Oregon were excited their city was chosen for the 2022 Northwest Mural Fest, but even they weren’t expecting how transformative the new murals would be. Now fifteen large murals downtown comprise a historical Mural in The Dalleswalking tour of The Dalles, and members of the city’s Lions Club were involved in every step of the event.

The Dalles MuralNorthwest Mural Fest is a yearly event in which members of the Walldogs, a collective of professional artists, gather in a city to paint murals reflecting the identity and history of the surrounding area. The painting itself takes place over five days, requiring hundreds of volunteers, and The Dalles Lions provided essential support. One of the largest Lions Clubs in Oregon with over ninety members, their contributions to the project included ongoing food service to keep the diligent painters and other volunteers fed through the event.

The Dalles MuralFood service wasn’t new territory for The Dalles’ Lions, according to Lion Mike Kilkenny. “We’ve provided meals to local events for years,” he says, citing the club’s biggest yearly fundraiser, concessions for a local car show and racing event. The stiflingly hot Mural Fest weekend challenged everyone, but the Dalles Lions’ efforts helped the artists throughout the event. “The temperature was over 100 degrees. For what [the Walldogs] did in that amount of time with those factors, to paint fifteen murals in one swoop, it’s just amazing.”

The murals have enhanced The Dalles, but they’re also an immersive lesson in the city’s rich history. Painted in appropriately vintage styles, the murals portray unique landmarks like the Columbia Gorge Scenic Highway and Sorosis Park, named for its founding Sorosis Club, a legendary early women’s club. They also honor long-gone features like the Dalles Dip, a famous swimming spot on the Columbia River. “We’ve only heard about it,” says Lion Mike. “Now there’s a mural of it. Every morning I walk by it and I’m amazed at how vibrant it is.”

The Dalles Lions serve foodThe Walldogs’ murals foster connections within a community, a tenet The Dalles Lions embody. Their multifaceted schedule includes food service and volunteering at citywide community cleanup events, trick-or-treating safety support, Flags for First Graders presentations, food drives and relief initiatives including the local BackPack Program, and a comprehensive vision screening program for local school students.

The Dalles Lions Club's set up.That interconnectedness extends beyond The Dalles. The Lions are excited that the murals will represent their local history to the many tourists who visit on river cruises during sailing season. “I didn’t talk to anyone who wasn’t amazed and moved by the whole thing,” says Lion Mike. “And it’s amazing that we have all these murals that people can look at for years.”