Take a Drive Down Mural Lane – A glimpse into the outdoor art culture of West County

Richmond Plunge WP

By Matt Larson

In an age where emphasis on the arts is diminishing faster than gas prices are rising, West Contra Costa County is fortunate enough to have numerous organizations that have funded some breathtaking murals in the area. We’ve selected four of them to highlight, but encourage you to do some exploring to see what others you can find.

We start our tour at the Wells Fargo branch at 1374 Fitzgerald Drive, Pinole. Just walk into the bank and tell the host you’d like to view the mural.

This mural is part of Wells Fargo’s Community Mural Program. They contacted the Pinole Historical Society to provide them with enough photos and information to create a mural accurately depicting the history of Pinole. “We look at this mural as part of the Society’s exhibit space,” says Jeff Rubin, Vice-President of the Pinole Historical Society. “We don’t have a museum, so we look for every opportunity we can to spread history. This mural is marvelous.” Watch Jeff and others explain the mural in great detail at http://www.pinolehistoricalsociety.org/PinoleMural.mov.

From here, take I-80 down to the Barrett Ave exit—right on Barrett, left on 27th, then your second right to find the Richmond Senior Center at 2525 Macdonald Ave. To get the best look of the mural you may have to cross the street. Maybe pick up a Casper’s hot dog while you’re over there. 

The mural is titled The Extraordinary Ordinary People, unveiled by the Richmond Arts and Culture Commission. Artist Judy Baca took charge of this project and wanted to create something that spoke to the generations of people that have lived in Richmond from the beginning to present day; from the Ohlone Native Americans to World War II to Richmond’s current citizens and environmental “green” movement. For a detailed explanation on all the panels visit http://www.judybaca.com, click on “Latest Projects” and then “The Richmond Mural Project”. 

Next continue down Macdonald Ave. until you reach the intersection at 41st St. to arrive at the West Contra Costa County Children’s Services building. The mural is titled Imagination is the Pathway to Change.

“We did it over the last two summers,” says Loriana Valente, a mental health clinical specialist at the West Contra Costa County Children and Adolescent Mental Health clinic. She oversaw the mural process from start to finish. “It was actually two different mural projects that we did; funded through the Rainbow Community Center’s Contra Costa LGBTQ Youth Advocacy Collaborative program in Concord.” She partnered with some staff members, a group of about 8 kids that were clients of the clinic, and Peskador, an artist that is part of the CRP (Community Rejuvenation Project). 

With imagery including rainbows, dragons, Dia de los Muertos, a Latina version of Rosie the Riveter and much more, the mural is all about expression and acceptance. Peskador created the drawing after the group discussion, drew it on to the wall, then taught the kids how to spray paint in the lines. For a map of all the murals that the CRP has helped produce, scroll down the left sidebar at crpbayarea.org. 

Finally, head back on Barrett Ave. toward 40th St., turn left on Richmond Pkwy., then right on S. Garrard Blvd. Keep going until you see the tunnel and park. From this approach you’ll see the words “Ferry Point” adorned by two Pelicans, circa 1996; on the other, “Point Richmond” with egrets, finished just last year. Whichever words you see will take you to that destination once passing through. Local Richmond artist John Wehrle explains his inspiration behind the birds: “Pelicans are a reminder of the natural elements. And the egrets … one can never have too many egrets, let’s put it that way.” 

Thanks to the Point Richmond Neighborhood Council you can appreciate Wehrle’s work on the tunnel. “It’s just to make the passage through a little more enjoyable,” he says. The tunnel is officially where our tour ends (though the Richmond Plunge is just nearby and Wehrle has a fabulous mural in there as well). For more of Wehrle’s work visit  http://www.troutinhand.com.


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