Youthful Artists Storm the Great Wall — with Paintbrushes

by Sarah Weston

It’s been dubbed “The Great Wall of Aptos,” a name that just sort of sprang up spontaneously, according to artist Kimberly Hardin. It was Hardin who oversaw the construction of the nearly 3,500 square-foot (287’x12’) mural. By now motorists along Highway 1 will be familiar with it, the panorama on the north side of Soquel Drive near the Rio Del Mar exit. So far, five months after its completion, the mural remains unmarred by graffiti in a location once popular with taggers. But Hardin sees youthful artistic expression not so much stifled by this project as encouraged by it.

“It was really a thrill [to paint this mural],” said Hardin. “There is a real mix of ages and skill levels; that’s part of the magic of it.”

Hardin, who has done interior murals for clients of her Kimberly Hardin Art Studio in Aptos, planned the Great Wall and did the rough sketch. However, it was approximately 20 of her students who carried out the execution. Ranging in age from five to 19, they worked two weekends in July to complete it.

“Some parts are better than others, as per their ages,” Hardin said. “Any artist can go out and do a really professional mural. ..But parents especially enjoy knowing it was done by students.”

Art in Aptos

The mural is the second sponsored by the Community Enhancement Committee of the Aptos Chamber of Commerce as part of its Art in Aptos project.

As with the first mural at another location, part of the intent was to replace a prime graffiti target with a work that taggers would respect. But the Aptos project was the first to implement the Committee’s additional goal of involving young artists in the process.

Pat Emard, a marriage and family counselor who describes herself as “semi-retired,” is a member of the Community Enhancement Committee. She has been involved with the Chamber for the past seven or eight years since she moved here from over the hill.

“There seems to be sort of an ethos among graffiti people that they don’t tag stuff where there’s already art on it,” she said.

Emard remarked that she had no background in art herself, but knew of Hardin’s work with young students and thought they would be a good match for the project. You Can Visit The Kimberly Hardin Art School Website By Clicking Here