New mural for Mission Road

Location

889 E. Mission Road
Alhambra , CA United States

In the midst of the traffic on Mission Road, a bearded man with long hair peaking out from a sun hat, paint-splattered clothes and a neon safety vest, stands with a calm expression. Art Mortimer, brushes in hand, faces a 15-foot wall topped with an iconic Alhambra arch. His task: to create a mural depicting the San Gabriel Valley of a century ago.

Mortimer is a prolific painter who has produced hundreds of murals throughout California including the one on the Utilities building near Garfield and Main. For this project he was given an illustration of a scenic San Gabriel Valley. It’s a bucolic image of the mountains and lush fields. But to Mortimer it was a bit drab, so he added some details such as a people and a trolley car.

“Well, there was the original artist’s idea, but I did more to it, I did that,” Mortimer said, pointing out jalopies, a trolley, farmers and the San Gabriel Mission. “That’s mine right there.”

The mural was funded with $60,000 from the Arts in Public Places Fund (each developer who builds in Alhambra is required to pay into the fund, which is specifically for the arts in the city.) Half went to the artist and half to contractors to erect the wall and the arches, which are built out of high-density foam. the project is an ambitious one for a mural on a busy highway.

Assisting Mortimer are artists Kwanwu Yu and Hillary Wooton, both of them also splattered with paints and wearing the bright safety vests.

“This is all a learning for me right now,” said Yu, a graduate of L.A. Trade Tech.

Before becoming involved with art Yu was studying engineering and Wooton worked in illustrations.

Wooton, a Loyola Marymount graduate, likes that she’s doing something creative and new everyday. “Especially, with the stages to this, it’s not the same thing day in day out,” she said.

The project has had a few bumps along the way. Before Mortimer even started, he noticed that there was something amiss with the wall. “They built the wall two feet too high, so I had to adjust the artwork to fit,” said Mortimer, who has more than 30 years of experience. “There’s always problems when you have a drawing on paper and then you blow it up and something doesn’t look right, it’s just the nature of it.”

Mortimer and his crew will be working well into the holidays extending their project with green vines, painted onto the wall. (Real vines wouldn’t take to the wall, as it is too steep and the sidewalk too narrow for any type of vegetation).

There’s a lot of work to be done from this point, including an inscription and another coat of paint, but for Mortimer the real test will be further in the future.

“Hopefully it’ll last, that’s one of the things when doing a mural,” he said. “You never know how it’ll hold up.” 

11 thoughts on “New mural for Mission Road”

  1. Mr. Martinez,

    Agendas for upcoming council meetings can be found here.

    Since you have such strong opinions about how the money from the Arts in Public Places Fund is spent, you should probably read the agendas with regularity and attend meetings when you have concerns. It’s one thing to complain about a decision thats already been made, but its a very different level of commitment to do something about it when you have an opportunity to. Also, I urge you to note the recently clarified code of conduct for the comments feature of this site:

    “I also want to take this opportunity to say that the comments space is an open space that ideally should serve as a space for discussion on issues raised in the site. It should not be a space for personal attacks or accusations without justification, and that type of comment will not be tolerated.”

    Calling people dumb doesn’t add anything of substance to your argument.

    1. guillermo martinez

      Fine Ryan, and let me thank you for that link.

      Let me rephrase my opinion to not hurt any feelings. The City Council fears, that the mural on Mission Road might possibly being mistaken for a actual roadway were irrational. If the council were thinking rationally they could never possibly imagine someone driving south on Almansor Road to Mission, seeing the mural, and driving across Mission, through the mural and on to fantasy land. What kind of people are running this city when they would even consider such a thing…

      Ryan, are you the monitor of the board, give me a break please. I really don’t see why offense should be taken to what I said, but apparently someone cares, so in the future I will phrase my objections to mistakes made by this city council differently. I guess Daniela will be hearing from you soon.

      A little off topic. I would suggest the Arts in Public Places Fund is a total waste of money. Those so called fees, actually taxes paid when a developer builds in Alhambra would be much better spent repairing sidewalks, and handicap ramps on EVERY residential and business corner in the city. For years there has been spray paint marking the corners where ramps are to be placed, yet nothing is done. Many, many sidewalks are buckled from bulging tree roots and have been for years, including many on my street. Alhambra does not need a “Arts in Public Places Fund”. Walking these streets for years I see blight everywhere and not a thing is done. But we have a Monolithic Arch, and now a Mural to Nowhere.

    2. guillermo martinez

      Fine Ryan, and let me thank you for that link.

      Let me rephrase my opinion to not hurt any feelings. The City Council fears, that the mural on Mission Road might possibly being mistaken for a actual roadway were irrational. If the council were thinking rationally they could never possibly imagine someone driving south on Almansor Road to Mission, seeing the mural, and driving across Mission, through the mural and on to fantasy land. What kind of people are running this city when they would even consider such a thing…

      Ryan, are you a shill for the city council, I notice you defend their actions often in the Alhambra Source, give me a break please. I really don’t see why offense should be taken to what I said, but apparently someone cares, so in the future I will phrase my objections to mistakes made by this city council differently. I guess Daniela will be hearing from you soon.

      A little off topic. I would suggest the Arts in Public Places Fund is a total waste of money. Those so called fees, actually taxes paid when a developer builds in Alhambra would be much better spent repairing sidewalks, and handicap ramps on EVERY residential and business corner in the city. For years there has been spray paint marking the corners where ramps are to be placed, yet nothing is done. Many, many sidewalks are buckled from bulging tree roots and have been for years, including many on my street. Alhambra does not need a “Arts in Public Places Fund”. Walking these streets for years I see blight everywhere and not a thing is done. But we have a Monolithic Arch, and now a Mural to Nowhere.

      1. Before the Atlantic theater was remodeled and even before Mervyns was built, Alhambra was very quiet. With all the expansions and the attention Alhambra receives now, there’s a lot of pressure to keep the city rich with art. Guillermo, if the Arts in Public Places fund is something that you don’t agree with, then let the City Council know – maybe there is a much larger consensus to the Alhambra arch and the mural.

        During the entire process of securing approval from the City Council, which was more than one council meeting, only one person ever voiced opposition for the mural. The next City Council meeting is on December 13 – Regular ARA meetings begin at 5:30 p.m. and City Council meetings are at 7 p.m.

      2. The problem with the city council meetings is that whoever objects is overruled, and as you said no one attends. In the years past I have been to many council meetings. one example, when it was proposed that the Old Garfield Theater not be restored, but instead be turned into a mega shopping center in a residential area. The city council then took homes and had them demolished to build a parking lot for the shopping center rather than have the developer build subterranean parking. Nathan, I attended city council meetings before you were born, not one thing has changed in all those years in the Alhambra City Council. Although one thing you can count on in this city, if a business will bring more money into the coffers, homes get destroyed and residential areas will be encroached on.

      3. There ways beyond attending city council meetings to have a voice and influence city policy. One is to actively provide constructive feedback about city proposals. In the Internet age, you can easily create a web site to post suggestions on how to improve the city, communicate with residents, and provide analysis of city proposals. It more easily allows you to create a network of like-minded residents who have similar grievances or feel shut out by what you consider an inattentive city council. Another option is that you could always hit the pavement and run for a city council seat.

        If you’re looking for a web host, I recommend http://blogger.com or http://wordpress.com. If you are more advanced, you can host your own web site. That’s what I do with http://alhambra123.org, a web site I set up to follow the high speed rail proposal.

      4. Although I do not like the arch or placement of the mural, I disagree with you about the Arts in Public Places Fund. Art does improve a community when well done.

        I am not entirely familiar with how Alhambra gets its public art funding. Many cities have public art requirements on large developments. The developer has a choice to install art as part of the development or contribute to a city-wide fund for public art. Those funds can only be used for that specific purpose. In the case of an arts fund, it must pay for public art. In the case of a parks fund, it can only be used to pay parks. And so on.

        Moreover, the city cannot require a developer to pay for repairs to city infrastructure or services that are unrelated to its project or into the general fund. For that reason, the city can require the developer to pay for new sidewalks, curbs, and fire hydrants at the development site but cannot use the arts fund requirement to pay for sidewalk repair in another part of the city or to remedy your generalized complaints of blight. However, you can suggest a public arts project the city can apply those arts funds to fully fund or pay in part.

        You should report buckled sidewalks to the city. My understanding is that sidewalks are generally the responsibility of a land owner. I was told the city gives the property owner a notice to repair and the choice of going with a contractor for a city-wide rate or complete the repair on their own. When trees are responsible, the city requires those trees and their roots be removed.

  2. This is certainly a fine piece of work done by Mr. Mortimer. But for the life of me I don’t get the reason to put it where it is at. Drivers heading east on Mission can’t enjoy it and heading west one really can’t take their eye off the road for more than a second without risking an accident. The only way to really enjoy the mural would be to drive south on Almansor to Mission where you can actually see it.

    Wouldn’t it have been better to build an arch where the vegetable garden is located in the corner of Granada and Mission, and have the mural facing where those actually driving into Alhambra from San Gabriel can see the great piece of art Mr. Mortimer has done.

    Did the members of the city council decide on this location???
    If so they really do need to be replaced. The 60K spent on this project is a waste of money if no one can see it. For the fine workmanship by Mr. Mortimer I congratulate you, for the city council, nothing for you, leave office.

    1. Well, mentioned in the minutes from the City Council meeting where this project was approved, the Board did specify one concern:

      That the mural was not perpendicular to Almansor or any street for fear that someone would think that the mural was a street.

      1. The city council was actually concerned about someone mistaking the mural for a street. That just further proves how dumb the members of the council are.

        If that was a worry then it should never have been constructed. This new arch mural is really just another “bridge to nowhere”. Sixty grand and no one can see it, I bet this project was Barbara Messina’s idea.

  3. Great article! Loved the main picture (rule of thirds). The mural is beautiful. Mural best situated in a park and not on a busy street where you can’t truly enjoy it.

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