Arts, City of Seward

Obihiro Mural Update

Justine and Dot with Obihiro Mural replica at Rotary

(Given by Dot Bardarson at Rotary Meeting – Tuesday Oct.23, 2012)

The City of Seward is sending a custom mural as a major gift to the City of Obihiro. The Seward Mural Society has taken on the project. We’ve been working on it for a couple of years now, meeting with the Japanese for planning. They are as excited about the project as we are, and well they should be because they are personally involved. All correspondence goes through Johanna Kinney and Brenda Ballou from the City Clerk’s office.

The idea is that next Fall we will bring the design to Obihiro and they will supply us with 20 Japanese artists to paint it, just as we do here during the Seward Music and Art Festival when our locals turn out to paint by number.

The biggest challenge for us so far has been to solve the problem of getting supplies to Obihiro. At first we suggested that they work from a list to procure them in Obihiro, but this proved to be very expensive and I don’t think they wanted to do it anyway. So we thought we’ll just ship the panels and paint and other materials to Japan. Not so fast! volunteered the International Relations man, Josh Neta. What we didn’t understand was how the Japanese plan years in advance with every conceivable blemish anticipated. No surprises! Well, that’s not the way we operate here. Our projects are fraught with emergencies. That’s why we have gophers.

Josh says we can’t do that in Japan. They don’t have home improvement stores there. Everything has to go through a contractor and that can take weeks. So when we forget to bring rags, you can’t just go out and buy them and bring them back to the painters. We’d be up a creek.

Josh has made it very clear that we must plan for every contingency and be prepared to work with what we remember to bring: a challenge. So we decided to do a replica of the Obihiro mural this year that we will keep in Seward. It is not full size. In fact its pretty small, but at least we had a chance to think about every detail as we painted.

The other challenge we didn’t know about was brought to our attention by our newest member of the Seward Arts Council and the Mural Society. Gary Cornwell used to work with supplies coming and going from Japan. In fact he lived there for a number years. He said, “We have to have MSD numbers for every item that gets shipped.” We looked at each other, eyes wide, and mouths open with nothing coming out. What is an MSD number? Well, apparently, every item we use has one. It has to do with chemicals that are used in the manufacture of materials. The MSD number informs the shipper of the contents and facilitates clearance from the receiving country.

Japan is particularly protective and strict about what enters the country. So, for instance, we can ship aluminum panels with their MSD number, but what happens now that we’ve decided to prime them first? Is this considered added value? We’ve also decided to transfer the design onto the primed panels before shipping so that we won’t have to have an overhead projector and all the things that go into transferring the design. Will the Sharpie lines be deemed added value and require an MSD number?


Welcome aboard, new member Gary Cornwell. What would we have done without you? We opened a can of worms and didn’t even know it, and you appeared on our planning committee just in time.

He’s working on that now and the e-mails are flying back and forth in an effort to complete the shipping list with all descriptions for Lynden Transport some time in December. After review of our list and eventual approval, we’ll order the supplies and have Lynden box everything up and get it on its way. We’ve scheduled shipping for Spring 2013.

Willard Dunham has been another great asset to our project. He has been researching stuff and even brought the Japanese Consulate to watch us paint the replica of the Obihiro Mural. We offered Mr. Funyama the opportunity to paint on the mural, which he did with enthusiasm. Once he got a brush in his hand, it was hard to break him away from the panel to go to lunch, where we talked about the logistics of pulling this project off.

Willard is also working with the International Trade Center, although we are finding out that this is really not in the scope of its function. Still, the more agencies and people know about this the better, and that’s why I’m here to tell you about it.

Obihiro has located a warehouse where we will paint, and will supply us with tables, water, a bathroom, etc. Our Seward liason is David Campbell – Keith & Jackie Campbell’s son, He lives in Obihiro and has offered to help in any way he can.

Josh will be there to interpret language for us and will facilitate us getting there from our hotel. We have found out that the city will not be paying for lodging, however.

After we have finished painting it, the mural will need a day to dry, and then we will apply the automotive protection to it. It’s called Clear Coat, a 2 part mixture that smells to high heaven. Obihiro will have built the structure for it, free-standing like the one we have at the Chamber of Commerce. It will be on a grassy slope at the Obihiro Zoo. The municipality will have a dedication ceremony and we’ll all be there, along with a delegate from the City of Seward.

Justine Pechusal is the Master Artist for the Obihiro Mural. You already know her work. When you go to the Post Office you see her mural commemorating Alaska’ 50 years of Statehood. Justine also worked with another artist, Liza McElroy, to complete the Whales on the south side of Christo’s Palace.


One Comment

  1. For more information on MSDS- Material Safety Data Sheets look up:
    Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act of 1986
    If you google Wikipedia on this topic, item 6.1 describes the legal requirements.