Following the up and down cycle of mining in White Pine County, Ely was on the downswing again in 1999 when yet another large mining operation in the area shut down. Then local businessman Norm Goeringer commissioned famous cowboy artist Larry Bute to paint a huge mural of a western scene on the side of his building and a new era in White Pine County began.
Other businesses jumped on the band wagon, having Bute paint more murals depicting life in the Old West. Then a group of far-thinking, community-minded individuals came together as the Ely Renaissance Society and began "painting" the town in earnest. Their theme -- "Where The World Met And Became One" -- describes the settlement of White Pine County and unites all of the murals.
Now there are nearly 20 murals and sculptures spread throughout the town and Ely has truly become a Renaissance community. Artists have been commissioned locally and from all over the world. Many can be seen on a walking tour of Ely's downtown area and the Ely Renaissance Society has produced a brochure and descriptive map for each location. You can get a copy at the White Pine Chamber of Commerce or at the Bristlecone Convention Center.
Some of the murals and sculptures on the tour include:
"Liberty Pit" - (SE corner of Aultman and 4th) - Commissioned by the Renaissance Society in 2000. A captivating depiction of the immigrant workers who worked in the massive copper mine west of Ely beginning in the early 1900s. Artist - Wei Luan.
"United By Our Children" - (Aultman and Great Basin Blvd.) - Five bright shining faces of local citizens as children illustrate the ethnic diversity of the White Pine County community. Artist - Paul Ygartua.
"Basque Mural" - (1603 Aultman Street) - Commissioned by the Renaissance Society in 2000, this mural shows the role many Basque immigrants to our area played. The mural is a split image on the side of a car wash owned by Joe Ciscar who is of was Basque heritage. He submitted a photo of his father to be used for the mural. Artists - Don Gray and Jared Gray.
"Cherry Creek Hot Springs" - (696 Aultman Street) - This mural shows the hot springs resort and laundry operation at Cherry Creek. It was painted on a wall of a local drugstore owned by Margaret Bath. Her grandparents, Elizabeth and Adolph Sundberg, owned the hot springs. - Artist Wei Luan
"Ward Charcoal Ovens" - Local artist Chris Kreider completed the first part of this mural in 2003. It shows the role Italian immigrants played in building and operating the charcoal ovens at Ward including bank owner John Gianoli’s father whose likeness is portrayed in the mural.
"Shoshone Woman Gathering Pinenuts" - This sculpture near the county library was created in 2002 by sculptor Joe Pachak who worked along with local Native American residents. It recognizes the lifestyle of the first inhabitants in the area.
The Ely Renaissance Society also created a sculpture garden along Aultman in downtown Ely, renovated a 1950's era gas station and is working on renovation of a county park.
The most recent, and most ambitious project undertaken by the Renaissance Society is the opening of the "Renaissance Village" at the old Geraghty Property near downtown Ely. In 2005, the Renaissance Society purchased nine contiguous lots with eleven 100 year old structures on them. The houses once belonged to early shopkeepers, railroad workers, and miners. Plans were formed to turn this little complex into an art village that continues the theme of "Where the World Met and Became One." Artists will be encouraged to use the houses for studios, hold art classes, drama and musical productions and the "Village" will hoist events to support our artists.
Each of the completed houses has been decorated by volunteers to represent a different ethnic group that migrated to work in White Pine County in the early 1900's.
The Village is entirely staffed by volunteers, so it is only open by appointment. However, it is open during many special events that are scheduled there during the year.
Ely Renaissance Society brochure and website
"Ely Times," local newspaper
For the Ely Mural Project website, go to www.elyrenaissance.com