The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

By Dot Bardarson
For The LOG 

Obihiro mural group makes final plans


Phyllis Shoemaker

Members of the Obihiro mural project planning committee meet to finalize plans. All wore their symbolic blue T-shirts. The entourage to Obhiro will carry 70 T-shirts to Obihiro for painters and other dignitaries. The T-shirts are also available at Ranting Raven. From left: Gary Cornwell, Dot Bardarson, Sheila Morrow, Jennifer Headtke, Jean Lewis, Kristi Larson, Linnea Hollingsworth, Bethany Waggoner and Susan Cornwell. Not pictured: Al Lamberson.

Dot Bardarson

For The LOG

With one or two meetings left to plan the complicated process of bringing a mural to Seward’s sister city, the eight art delegates are looking forward to working in Obihiro for a couple of weeks. Twenty years ago, Obihiro came to Seward and with the help of Sewardites built the lovely pavilion that sits along the bicycle path on the greenbelt. Folks enjoy sitting there during the summer months and once in awhile under the full moon when it is cold with winter. (Been there, done that). Now, the Seward is bringing a major gift to Obihiro, Japan with a similar plan, to involve Japanese artists in a collaborate project to create a mural.

The Seward Mural Society is charged with organizing the project here and working with Japanese high school art students there, much as it does with the painting of murals during the annual Seward Music and Arts Festival in September.

Since the group has done so many murals and, in fact, has been named Mural Capital of Alaska because of them, the group never guessed the difficulty of working with a foreign country. The Japanese have totally different ways of approaching projects, with utmost planning (four years now), a different currency, the metric system, different sizes of everything, limited availability of supplies, etc. The cost of shipping was prohibitive, so we have to purchase most of them there. But with the help of Josh Neta, the international relations person, and David and Noriko Campbell, we’ve put together a plan that begins with a shopping list. David, from Seward, married Noriko when he went to Japan to teach English, and raised his family there. Noriko has offered to help promote the event in Japan.

So, with design in hand, eight art delegates will arrive in Obihiro, meet Mayor Yonezawa to present gifts, and then begin the process.

They have tried to project ahead, to imagine every little glitch that might be a stumbling block. The Seward Mural Society even painted a quarter size replica of the mural last year in an effort to identify problems, as a sort of dress rehearsal. That mural is mounted on the east wall of Murphy’s Inn across the street from the ballfield.

The mural was designed by Justine Pechusal. She named it “Friendship Across Water.” Symbolically the Alaska moose is carrying the chrysanthemum and forget-me-nots across the ocean to the Japanese crane who waits in Obihiro. In fact, when the replica mural was dedicated, water from Resurrection Bay was used to christen it. We will take that water to Japan for the same purpose. The Japanese are constructing the framework for the mural well in advance of the dedication.

When the budget for the project was submitted to the City of Seward for approval, some of the expenses, that have become obvious to us now, were not known. So the Seward Arts Council is mounting fundraising efforts to close that deficit. A delicious contest is part of this. During August, chefs in selected Seward restaurants have designed a Special Obihiro Chef’s plate to showcase their entry in the contest. The restaurants will donate 10 percent for the Obihiro mural project. Entries of the Master Chef Competition will be judged by a panel of experts and the winning chef announced. Look for these Obihiro Specials at Woody’s, Chinooks, Red’s Burgers, The Breeze Inn, Chattermark, Alaska Nellie’s, Railway Cantina and Ms. Gene’s Place at Hotel Seward.

Another way to contribute to Seward’s gift to Obihiro is through the website at or donate with a check to Seward Mural Society at Ranting Raven.

The mural committee will be meeting with Obihiro Mayor Norihisa Yonezawa and Obihiro’s city council president, Katsunori Nohara and three staff members who are coming to Seward for Seward’s Founder’s Day Celebration at the end of the month.

Our 45-year relationship as sister cities will be celebrated royally with Seward’s gift to Obihiro. The mural will greet visitors to the zoo and will undoubtedly be part of various tours to Obihiro.


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