More than a decade after a public art program was created in Arroyo Grande, the city could get its first public art project this summer — a large mural on the side of a historical building in the Village.
If approved by a public art panel, Visalia resident Colleen Mitchell-Veyna’s canvas would become the east side of the former JJ’s Market building at 303 E. Branch St.
She submitted a sketch depicting some aspects of life in Arroyo Grande in the early to mid-1900s: A narrow gauge railroad, which was used to ship produce from the community, and depictions of farmers surrounded by vegetables, wine grapes and fields.
“We were blown away by Colleen’s submission,” said Trudy Jarratt, chair of Arroyo Grande Public Art, a committee formed by the nonprofit Arroyo Grande in Bloom organization.
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“Her research is extensive,” Jarratt added. “She went to the California (State) Railroad Museum and got pictures of the exact single-gauge railcar that came through Arroyo Grande.”
Arroyo Grande Public Art and Nick Tompkins of NKT Commercial, who owns the building, released a request seeking proposals that would celebrate the city’s history and agricultural roots. They received 20 inquiries and four proposals.
The muralist was selected by Tompkins and a public art sub-committee. The building owner agreed to provide $30,000 to fund the project.
“What we’re trying to do is make sure we reflect something about the history of Arroyo Grande and what makes this area so unique,” Tompkins told the Arroyo Grande City Council on Tuesday. “Colleen has completed over 100 murals and they’re spectacular pieces of work.”
Mitchell-Veyna has painted murals all over the Central Valley, including Exeter, Manteca, Tulare, and Hanford, as well as other parts of California and out-of-state. (Her work can be viewed at http://veynadesignstudios.com.)
Reached by phone, Mitchell-Veyna said she was heading to an antique farm show on Saturday to find a 1940 John Deere model B tractor to depict in the mural.
“Half the fun is researching and finding exactly what you need,” she said.
The mural would be the city’s first public art project since the Arroyo Grande council approved public art guidelines in 2002 after a controversial abstract sculpture of a female form — inspired by a woman’s triumph over breast cancer — was installed on East Branch Street for a few months.
The curvy statue was donated to San Luis Obispo in 2002 and resides near Nipomo and Higuera streets.
Per the city’s public art guidelines, the Arroyo Grande council held a hearing to take public comments and make suggestions on the mural but could not vote on it, since it is public art proposed on private property.
Instead, the final approval is made by a public art panel, comprised of representatives for the property owner, the county Arts Council, the city’s Architectural Review Committee, the Arroyo Grande-Grover Beach Chamber of Commerce or Village Improvement Association, and the South County Historical Society.
Arroyo Grande Public Art has several other projects underway, Jarratt said. They include working on ideas for separate public art projects with members of the local Chumash community and the Five Cities Diversity Coalition.
The committee is also raising money for a bust to honor Harriet Quimby, the first American woman to be licensed as a pilot, who said she was born in Arroyo Grande; and would like to display a piece of metal scrap from the World Trade Center to honor firefighters and others who lost their lives Sept. 11, 2001.