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REPRESENT: MULTI-STORY SOCIAL COMMENTARY
Josh Wigger has been pressure-washing paint off the Econo Inn all day.
"It hasn't been primed before. All the paint's gonna have to come off and we'll have to prime the whole building. That's about 50, 60 years of paint coming off. That's a lot of work."
Wigger and fellow artist Eatcho have collaborated to create Fresno's first alleyway mural between Broadway and Fulton in upper downtown Fresno. Reza Assemi, developer and artist, came up with the idea as part of his vision for the empty alleys downtown. The murals are seen as an important part of the transition of the area, from abandoned industrial center to livable neighborhood.
"Wherever there's a large city, a metropolis, there needs to be murals as representation of what the city's about. That's what this whole thing's about," said Wigger.
The two-story mural will span nearly half of a city block behind the Pearl Building. Designed by Wigger and Eatcho, the mural depicts aspects of Valley life: agriculture on one side, and a growing metropolis on the other. The vibrant colors will stand in sharp contrast to the monochromatic study in beige that permeates most of downtown. If Assemi has his way, many of the alleys in this neighborhood will undergo a dynamic facelift.
"With murals, we're doing some type of social commentary, a dialog of a city, where people get to see- right in front of them- what's going on. New colors, figures, symbolism, different things like that."
In Los Angeles, the "mural capital of the world", the murals are about, by and for the communities they watch over.
The world's longest mural is located in an old canal in Los Angeles. Known as the Great Wall of Los Angeles, the 2,435-foot and growing mural tells the stories of the neighborhoods it traverses, as seen by its diverse residents. The Great Wall project began in 1976 and is managed by the Social and Public Arts Resource Center (SPARC), a non-profit organization committed to creating and preserving murals in the Los Angeles area
While murals aren't exactly new to Fresno, the majority of the existing works were created not for the residents of the 'No but for those passing through. In an effort to give people barreling down our highways a taste of what they were missing, the Rotary Club selected pictorials representative of the Valley and funded most of the 20' by 8' murals on Highways 99, 180, and 41.
Inspired by Howard Growden, who in 1983 created the original mural on Highway 41, the Rotary Club oversees the 18 tiled mosaic highway signs.
But this project is something different.
Wigger explains: "Now that this is becoming a larger city, they're trying to find ways of actually keeping the artist here and make things happen. Young teenagers would rather write on walls, go vandalize something because there's nothing going on. We're trying to make something happen here, and not leave, because we can all do that."
Although the city is awash in what could be described as public-arts fever, the sizable project will not receive city funding.
In June the Fresno City Council, spurred on by council member Henry T. Perea, approved in principle a policy for to promote more public art. The policy, which has not been finalized, encourages department heads to incorporate art in civic projects, and would waive some development standards (such as number of parking spaces) for builders who incorporate art into their projects.
According to Assemi, the mural will be funded through private donations, raised by himself and Council member Perea. He estimates the project will need $1,000.
There are plans for other artists to complete other murals downtown, but they have not been finalized and do not impact this project.
The Downtown Association also has plans to paint a mural, possibly on one of their buildings on the Fulton Mall, according to their newsletter.
Although the artists will not be paid for their work, they are glad to be a part of the project.
"There is some sacrifice in it, but I think with any job this big there is sacrifice. I see it as a community project. We just get to have the fun part of supplying the imagery, " affirmed Eatcho.