As Cayucos artist Ingrid Goelz opened a jar of Skippy peanut butter, inspiration struck.
Gazing at the turquoise plastic lid in her hand, “I went, ‘I should start collecting these lids,’ ” she recalled, and create colorful art with them.
Goelz, a founding member of the Cayucos Art Association, is now hard at work on her biggest recycled art project yet: a massive mural of the Estero Bay coastline measuring 8 feet tall by 36 feet long. It’s located on the north side of the Cayucos skate park behind Duckie’s Chowder House, near the corner of Ocean Front Avenue and Cayucos Drive.
On sunny weekdays, Goelz can be found in the parking lot of the Cayucos Veterans Hall, screwing plastic lids of various sizes and colors onto plywood panels on top of an older mural painted by school children. Circles of white and blue conjure up the bubbly tides of the Pacific Ocean, while green, yellow and orange lids recall the lush vegetation found on shore.
“I really got involved in doing recycled art a few years ago,” the artist said, after a visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Goelz crafts mermaids and other, less fanciful sea creatures — jellyfish, sardines, red snappers — out of such unconventional materials as bottle caps, bubble wrap and aluminum foil.
In fact, she said she started collecting plastic lids without a specific project in mind. Then she hit upon the idea of a public art piece.
“I get nuts when I throw out plastic,” said Goelz, who worries about its impact on the environment. “It’s so sad and scary.”
She started working on the ocean mural during the first week of November 2018 with the aid of another local artist, Marsha Rebstock. Goelz’s husband, Joseph “Jay” Goelz, retired electrician and former owner of Cayucos Electric Company, has also helped out.
Other community members have chipped in by saving plastic lids for the project.
“I literally have a rainbow of baskets and bags of colored lids” numbering in the thousands, Ingrid Goelz said.
She’s specifically looking for yellow, green and blue plastic lids, which can be dropped off on the porch of the Cayucos Art Association at 10 Cayucos Drive. “I already have more black, white and red (lids) than I know what do with,” the artist said with a chuckle.
In addition to sending a message of environmental conservation, the mural serves as a loving tribute to Goelz’s adopted hometown.
Goelz, who grew up in Laguna, said she fell in love with Cayucos the first time she visit the beach community around age 12 or 13.
“I’ll never forget the first time I saw that big, beautiful vacant beach,” recalled Goelz, who was 18 when she moved to Cayucos in 1973, after graduating from high school. “It wasn’t crowded with Southern Californians. It was wild. It was empty. It was beautiful.”
“I’m definitely a Cayucos girl,” she said.
Work on the mural has been slow going lately due to wet weather, but Goelz is using a recent dry spell to catch up.
“I’d really love to have the bulk of (the mural) done before Memorial Day,” said Goelz, who doesn’t work on the project on holidays and weekends to avoid crowds. “Once we get into summer, it’s a nuthouse.”
Even once she’s finished working on the mural, Goelz said, it won’t truly be finished. She said she and her helpers are drilling and screwing the lids, rather than gluing them down, so they can change and maintain the mural over time.
“I think this is going to be a lifelong project,” she said.