Artists Hope Murals Will Replace Graffiti
AMANDA SCHOENBERG -- Posted On: 07-14-2005

APTOS — Motorists barreling down Highway 1 now have a colorful new reason to turn their heads.

Last weekend, volunteers put the finishing touches on a 265-foot mural depicting the waves, cliffs and even the cement ship in Aptos on the north side of Highway 1 between the Rio del Mar and Freedom exits, on Soquel Drive.

About 15 students from nearby Kimberly Hardin Art Studio, ranging in age from 8-18, joined the effort over two weekends in June and July.

“It was awesome, being able to get messy and paint and not get into trouble, letting the whole world know that I helped with this mural,” said Simone Williams, 11, a student at Linscott Charter School.

The mural is one brushstroke in a larger project to ply Aptos with art, said Pat Emard, a member of the Aptos Chamber of Commerce Community Enhancement Subcommittee.

Interest in public art swirled after Supervisor Ellen Pirie suggested a mural for a blank wall at the new Safeway gas station in Aptos last year.

Jerry Shanahan, volunteer coordinator for the Graffiti Removal Project of the Volunteer Center of Santa Cruz County, introduced the subcommittee to art teacher Kimberly Hardin, and the partnership began in May.

“Now we want to take on more projects,” Emard said. “Our goal is to raise money to bring more art to Aptos.”

Hardin hopes to keep her students painting throughout the year. She was touched by their response and thanked volunteers for participating.

“Hopefully, we’ll get more (projects),” she said. “I want to keep the youth involved; it’s their community, too.”

The subcommittee hopes to encourage public art on trestle overpasses, as well as large electrical boxes.

Proponents hope art will replace graffiti, Pirie analyst Robin Musitelli said.

“(Graffiti) is a problem everywhere,” Musitelli said. “If it just gets a toehold, it attracts other graffiti.”

Shanahan and a team of volunteers had painted over graffiti on the Soquel Drive wall at least 30 times, he said.

“Murals in general, once they’re up, the taggers leave them alone,” Shanahan said.

The next project will be a contest in the fall for young people to design panels depicting Aptos life —from skateboarding to horseback riding — on another wall across the highway, Emard said.

The plan is to breathe new life into the suburban area, Emard said.

“Aptos is pretty blah in the art world,” she said.

Emard hopes to have young artists work with professionals. She has already enlisted the help of muralist Art Thomae, who is now coordinating the trompe l’oeil mural at 241 W. Beach St. in Watsonville.

The young artists are serious about their product, Emard said.

Victor Minden, 14, a home-schooled student from Watsonville, has taken classes with Hardin since he was 6. He joined the project when Hardin told him it would be a way to keep doing art over the summer.

“It was pretty much like working on a giant canvas,” Minden said.

Jorge Gallo, 19, a Cabrillo College student, called Hardin his “art mom” who has inspired him to study art since the age of 12.

“I really like the results (of the mural),” Gallo said. “I am impressed every time I drive by.”

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