Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Jeeze, I go away for a few days and when I come back, Blogger up and changed the format of their blogs so now it's totally sucky (or I should say, suckier than usual) and doesn't work worth beans. Why do relatively smart people keep trying to "fix" things in order to make them worse? Sigh.

I went to Fresno to visit my sister and help paint her kitchen, and while there we took a break to head down the road to a little town called Exeter.  It's about an hour south-east of Fresno, heading towards Sequoia National park.  Amazingly, even through the smoggy haze, we could see the snow capped Sierras, something that used to be a normal sight years ago.

      Exeter was founded in the late 1880s as a center for orange and grape growing and for years it sorta just chugged along, a dusty little old town of 10,000 souls with downtown streets with head-in parking.  A sweet, friendly little place of small businesses, including this wonderful old-timey hardware store with a great selection of nuts and bolts and high-end cookware.

Then, according to my informant in the old fashioned ice cream parlor, a building in the middle of town burned down and the lot sat empty for some time. Without really being planned, the vacant lot sort of turned into a public park, a public gathering place.

And somebody -- the Chamber of Commerce, the Women's Club, Kiwanis, and other civic clubs-- found out about a town up in Oregon that turned itself around by filling the town with murals.  So in 1996,  on the side of the building next to the de facto public park, there appeared the first mural.

"Orange Harvest," by Colleen Mitchen-Veyna and Morgan McCall (1996)

And then, before you knew it, more money was raised, more murals appeared.  Soon, businesses revived, restaurants and coffee shops appeared along with antique stores, unique clothing stores, an old timey ice cream parlor, and the visitors arrived to gawk and admire and wander about.  And spend money.  Perfect example of how art can bring life back to a dusty town. 

"Mineral King; In Our Back Yard" by Jana Botkin. (2009)

To date, there's 26 murals scattered throughout the downtown area, all within strolling distance.  The centrally located Chamber/Visitor's center has a self-guide, full color map featuring all the murals. The subject matter of the murals varies from scenes of Exeter's history to celebrating the natural beauty of the area. And more murals are surely on their way. 
"Timber Trail," by Martin Weekly (2001)   

If you're in the area, do yourself a favor and stop by to see the little town that figured out that surrounding yourself with beauty brings not only joy but civic pride.  And money.  And as too many cities watch as their civic centers rot away, here's a community that discovered the power of the paintbrush.  

"Exeter Centennial 1911-2011," by Steven Ball.  Commemorates Exeter's 100th anniversary, depicts Pine St. Circa 1911.


Alon Perlman said...

There's a Mural I like in Los Osos, and it's at a gas station yet. If you pump air into your tires you can read who participated in putting it there.
I like the Mural in Baywood, but I'd rather see Sandal's boat, than a picture of it.
Blogger? what does newsstand Greg say?

Sewertoons AKA Lynette Tornatzky said...

Nice shots Ann! Thanks!

If one googles "California towns with murals" a lot of stuff comes up. I recall Huell Howser reporting on some town in the desert that had a lot of them. I'm glad we have two anyway and wish we had more! Goodness knows - we have a lot of artists in town!

Churadogs said...

Toonces: Re Los Osos Murals, we have 4 of 'em (five, but one in Baywood was really a "failed" project -- long, ugly story): They're on the Carlock's building, the Valley Liquor, the truck/equipment rental bldg and Rexall Drugs.

Sewertoons AKA Lynette Tornatzky said...

Looks like I haven't been looking enough! I'll check the other three out! Thanks!

The story would be interesting to hear if you'd care to tell it sometime!

Churadogs said...

Toonces: The story of what? all our little Los Osos Murals, or the hideous "failed" Baywood one? On that one, my lips are sealed.It's a small town. The person involved knows who she is and what happened. It was ugly. 'Nuff said.