Work on huge Vallejo-celebrating mural begins downtown

By Rachel-Raskin-Zrihen, Vallejo Times-Herald 10/25/16

Andre Jones of Richmond preps a wall on the end of 301 Georgia Street where he will be painting a large mural of Vallejo. Jones won a contest to receive Participatory Budget money to create the piece of art.Chris Riley ‑ Times-Herald 

Andre Jones says he hopes to have his “feel-good” giant Vallejo mural finished before the holidays, assuming the weather cooperates.

The Richmond resident who won a mural contest in July, started work Friday on an enormous painting to grace the side of the building at 301 Georgia St.

So far, “The Gateway to Vallejo” mural – a stylized depiction of the city’s landscape – is a coat of primer on the side of Jim Barcewski’s Georgia Street building.

“If it rains, we’ll have to pack it up, but I’m hoping to add some colors to make it pop,” Jones said Tuesday.

The giant painting is being made possible by a $25,000 public art grant from Vallejo’s Participatory Budgeting funds, Central Core Restoration Corporation member Erin Bakke said.

Bakke said she’s pleased with the buy-in from the community, including Barcewski, who prepared his building to become a canvass, business owner Buck Kamphausen, who donated the use of lifting equipment and the Artiszen Cultural Arts Center, which is supplying Jones with some storage space.

“It’s wonderful when people come together to help when they can,” she said.

Jones’ concept was among three finalists out of a field of 30, and his birds-eye view of Vallejo beat out a more cerebral piece by Greta McClain of Minnesota and another by artist Mel Waters by a 4-1 vote of a five-person Gateway Mural Committee. Each artist had presented their vision to illustrate “a sense of place, history, culture and geography” for Vallejo, Bakke said. Each artists was given $1,000 to create a concept.

Jones may have had a leg up, having lived in Vallejo when he first came to California from Philadelphia. He’s produced murals in Oakland, Philadelphia and in several African countries.

Jones said he’s going to reproduce the painting the committee saw, on an enormous scale, using an already completed grid system, breaking the image into smaller pieces. He and his helpers will be applying paint directly to the building’s exterior wall.

The mural will only cover the top half of the wall, to discourage graffiti, committee members said.

“I hope to help enrich the downtown Vallejo art community and bring a new energy to the downtown area,” Jones said. “I hope it will make people happy; that they get that warm feeling you get when you see something you like. And, I hope it helps create a sense of pride in Vallejo.”

Jones said he especially likes murals because they can be enjoyed by anyone who happens by, “as opposed to having to go to a gallery.”

“People should be able to see (art) without having to pay to see it in a gallery – to get a little art; some bright colors, in their everyday life,” he said.

The Georgia Street mural is just one piece of what’s going on in the local art scene, Bakke said.

“We have a youth mural going in at 615 Marin Street at Virginia Street soon, and the final utility box will also be done soon,” she said.