REEDLEY – A piece of city history and identity will be cemented in downtown through a mural of the old train station making its way to the Reedley Museum.
The CK Mural Team, made up of area artists Colleen Mitchell-Veyna and Kelsey Gilles, will paint the mural; however, it still needs to be approved by the Reedley City Council. At its meeting on Sept. 12, the council voted to revisit the topic after disagreement between council members over an element of the mural design.
Community Development Director Rodney Horton said that the mural has been in the works for some time and was delayed due to a change in the artist and a small redesign of the original idea. The planning commission first approved the mural permit application in February with a recommendation for the city council to approve the design as well.
“That is a mural that was specifically requested from the museum,” Horton said. “That is not something that staff recommended to the museum folks, that is not something that came from any other group besides the museum.”
The mural depicts an old photograph of the train station in Reedley, with a wooden fence around it acting as a frame. The fence features rope and stone fruit and is surrounded by a deep green border to represent Reedley’s history with agriculture. It will be approximately 154 square feet and will be featured on the south facing wall of the museum located at 1752 10th St.
Horton said the museum originally wanted the full version of the historic photo, but after some discussion with the city they agreed to the design as it is now.
“We thought, as a nod to Reedley’s history when it comes to ag and particularly stone fruit, we wanted to put in a border there that gave a full appreciation of the ag history as well as the rail history, both complementing each other,” Horton said.
This mural project will also include a painting of the downtown parking sign on the east facing wall of the museum to provide another wayfinding aspect to the downtown area.
Councilmember Mary Fast mentioned that she enjoyed the green of the parking sign included in the murals and said it lends itself to a historical-looking older design. Fast herself has fond memories of the train station before it was torn down and said she thinks it’s great that the mural project honors that aspect of Reedley history.
The main mural will be placed more than six feet off the ground on the museum’s south facing wall to discourage any vandalism and ensure it is visible. Two trees near the wall will also be relocated to provide a better view of the mural. The parking sign painting will be higher up on the east facing wall to help people find the downtown parking lot area.
Horton said the murals will also have two coatings of a special material that will allow for any graffiti to be cleaned off the wall without damaging the paintings and will protect them from fading in the sun.
Interestingly, the murals will not be painted directly on the museum wall, but rather be painted on a mural canvas that can be installed on the interior or exterior of a building.
Mitchell-Veyna said that she and Gilles, who have painted dozens of murals in the Valley, typically paint all of their murals on sheet panels that they get put together, though a passerby generally won’t be able to tell that it wasn’t painted on the wall, she said.
“It’s easier to do them on the canvas material,” Mitchell-Veyna said. “You can get greater detail because you’re working on it in a controlled environment where you can see what you’re doing.”
Funding for the murals comes from the “art in public places” line item in the community development department’s budget, Horton said.
City council ultimately voted to table the discussion to a future meeting because there was disagreement over the green border that encased the rest of the mural design.
Councilmember Scott Friesen and Mayor pro tem Matthew Tuttle said they did not care for the border as they felt it did not fit with the rest of the image, but Councilmember Mary Fast and Mayor Anita Betancourt liked the mural as-is.
Fast and Betancourt first motioned to approve the mural without any changes, but that motion failed 3-2 with Fast and Betancourt as the only ‘yes’ votes. Friesen then motioned to approve a version of the mural without the border, which also failed 3-2 with Friesen and Tuttle as the only ‘yes’ votes.
As the deciding ‘no’ vote on both motions, Councilmember Suzanne Byers said she wanted to see multiple options for the mural so that the council could choose which they liked best.
It was also noted that the city has a mural ordinance that states a mural is first reviewed by the planning commission and then sent to city council, meaning that at this stage there is usually only one option given to city council. The mural design presented to council was the one favored by both the planning commission and the museum.
The item was laid to rest for the night after a third motion where council members unanimously voted to postpone the decision and directed city staff to provide them with two options for the mural: one with a green border and one without.