New murals in Ceres’ future?

The last time that a concerted effort was made to paint murals on Ceres buildings was 63 years ago when the town gathered for the May 1961 Paint-Up Festival that was recognized on the pages of the Saturday Evening Post. But if the city gets its way, there will be fresh murals randomly painted throughout the city to celebrate aspects of Ceres.

Last week the Ceres City Council agreed to form an ad hoc committee to review possible locations for murals and make suggestions to the council. 

Christopher Hoem, director of Community Development for the city of Ceres, said the concept would be for participating artists to pay for their paint and supplies.

Hoem outlined that murals – ideally images that represents Ceres – would not be painted on city property.

“There are a few property owners that are interested in having a mural on their site,” Hoem told the council.

He showed slides featuring some proposed designs, one on the side of the Fourth Street building where the Ceres Chamber offices are located. He also showed a digital concept of a mural on southern wall of the Mitchell Road tattoo parlor facing the Ceres Post Office. He also showed other murals painted in downtown Modesto and other locations in the state.

Downtown Ceres made national news in 1961 when the townsfolk donned work clothes and caps to give buildings a fresh coat of paint and add a number of walls murals. Over the years buildings that sported the murals came down and some were painted over. Today the only murals that remain from 1961 are on the south and west walls of the Odd Fellows Hall.

Ceres resident Gene Yeakley said committee members should be art enthusiasts who could develop “something nice to look at.”

Irene Ortiz expressed that murals are a great idea and would add character to Ceres and “color into our town.”

“Although it would be really nice for the artists to be able to provide their supplies and paint and have it come out of their pocket, if you tend to put limitations on what kind of art you want to go up, that art is typically paid for,” said Ortiz. “So you’d have to find some type of grant or some kind of communication and agreement to say, hey, this is what we want you to aim for as far as a reflection of Ceres and let them kind of let their creativeness go with that.”

Ortiz cited her experience with the painting of a mural on a long wall at the old Ceres Flea Market by artists who could “go wild with it” as long as it was family friendly.

Four of the councilmembers voiced support for the city taking the lead with the project. Vice Mayor Bret Silveira, however, opposed the city getting “in the mural painting business,” saying “I think that should be up to the private businesses and what they want to do with their building.”

Councilman Daniel Martinez and Mayor Javier Lopez volunteered for the committee and drafted Ortiz into serving on it. While supporting the idea of murals and a committee, Councilwoman Rosalinda Vierra voted no along with Silveira since the committee wasn’t planning to be opened up for all to apply. The 3-2 vote moves the planning of murals along.

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