A new mural depicts scenes from Sisters’ history. photo by Jerry Baldock
A new mural depicts scenes from Sisters’ history. photo by Jerry Baldock
Sisters is celebrating the 75th anniversary of the incorporation of the City of Sisters with a new historical mural on the South Fir Street side of the Habitat for Humanity Thrift Store.

Sisters resident Melanie Nelson contacted Minnesota muralist Steve DeLaitsch and his assistant Scott Duffus for the project. Nelson formerly lived in Owatonna, Minnesota, and worked with them both on previous mural projects.

Nelson has been coming to Black Butte Ranch over the last seven years and “fell in love with Sisters.”

“I decided to invest last September and found the perfect duplex. I am a happy homeowner,” Nelson told The Nugget.

She is also a happily married woman after meeting Oregon author Phillip Margolin on a blind date and marrying him. He is a frequent presenter at Paulina Springs Books and is currently working on his 26th thriller, due out in March 2022.

When Nelson read in The Nugget about the 75th anniversary, she approached the City about the possibility of funding a mural depicting important moments in the history of Sisters. The City put her in touch with the Three Sisters Historical Society and Sisters History Museum, keepers of historic photographs and stories. They, in turn, contacted the Sisters Arts Association, because the project aligned with one of their goals — to create a stronger public art program in Sisters. The SAA negotiated with Sisters Habitat for Humanity to place the mural on the side of their thrift store, which was originally the Leithauser Grocery Store.

This collaboration of three Sisters organizations and the City “is a watershed moment,” according to SAA president Dennis Schmidling, “and hopefully the first of many collaborations related to public art.” Schmidling knew Nelson previously and worked with her to manage the funds she donated and coordinated the project for all involved.

“Due to four organizations cooperating and collaborating, my donation and initiative was accepted by the City,” said Nelson. “There were a lot of committee meetings to make this mural happen… I’m proud to gift this mural to the City of Sisters. It’s a big deal for me! I believe I am giving back and paying forward. I am honored and proud to be a part of the Sisters community.”

DeLaitsch has been creating murals since 2000 but has been a fine artist creating landscapes and portraits in oils and watercolors since his graduation from the American Academy of Art in Chicago in the mid-1970s. In 1979 he made his first painting trip to the West Coast of the United States. In 1985, he traveled to China to paint and has also been to Italy. He still has 17 sketchbooks from his many travels.

Besides his painting, DeLaitsch has worked as a contractor and also built cabinets. He currently does about two large art installations a year as he is now semiretired. He estimates the mural will take three to four weeks to complete. After completing the Sisters mural, he is scheduled for knee surgery.

Duffus assists the muralist with priming surfaces, painting borders, and any number of other tasks. The men at work on the mural can be observed almost every day on South Fir Street.

“I wanted to give a gift to the Sisters community and murals have been my gifts in the past to my community,” explained Nelson. “Seventy-five years is important to celebrate.”

DeLaitsch said he “finds Sisters residents to be extremely friendly and helpful. There is a genuineness to the people that I find appealing.”