New group calls for mucho murals


A 40-foot mural by Neal and Dawn Von Flue adorns Cantina Real on the Pier Plaza. Photo

A dozen or more western Hermosa buildings would sport large painted murals depicting the city’s history and culture, if a newly forming nonprofit group with three ex-councilmen has its way.

The idea was hatched after a group of friends went to Santa Paula, a town located 14 miles east of Ventura, and saw exterior wall murals for which the city is regionally known.

“Santa Paula was an eye opener for me for the quality and the quantity of their mural project,” said Chuck Sheldon, a former Hermosa councilman and board member of the Hermosa Beach Mural Project, which has begun the process of nonprofit incorporation.

“They have really high-quality murals in close proximity to each other,” Sheldon said.

The murals attract school students from other cities who take walking tours that include educational talks about Santa Paula’s history, which is rich with Chumash Indians, lemon orchards and oil.

Hermosa already contains one such cultural-historical mural, spanning 40 feet across the western wall of Cantina Real on the Pier Plaza. The mural was commissioned for the city centennial two years ago, and was created over about 100 hours by husband-and-wife artistic team Neal and Dawn Von Flue.

It shows the sweep of Hermosa’s history in acrylic shades of sand, sky, surf and sun, with iconic images including Red Line cars, the Strand Bathhouse, jazz great Howard Rumsey, surfing great Dewey Weber, punk rockers Black Flag and pro beach volleyball players.

Sheldon envisions some 12 to 15 large exterior wall murals west of Valley Drive, roughly north of 10th Street and south of 15th Street.

Sheldon said the group has identified “about 20 great potential mural sites” in that area, on walls of both privately-owned and city-owned buildings.

Potential sites include the north side of the post office on Pier Avenue, the south side of the fire station across the street, a portion of the exterior of Zane’s restaurant on Hermosa Avenue, the rear wall of the Bank of America building on a corner of the Pier Plaza, the rear wall of the old Bijou Theater building on Hermosa Avenue, and a portion of the nearby municipal parking structure.

Private owners would have to agree to leave a mural wall standing for at least 10 years, with a deed restriction requiring the same of a new owner if the building is sold.

 “We’ve got our challenges, but I think the first mural could go up within a year,” followed by additional murals at the rate of about one a year, Sheldon said.

“I think if we’re careful with the themes we come up with, it could prove to be a great tourist attraction for Hermosa, and a great point of pride for Hermosa, and an educational opportunity,” Sheldon said.

He said local mural themes could include Hermosa’s rich jazz and surfing histories. Members of the nonprofit group would consult with the Hermosa Beach Historical Society to determine the content of the murals.

Sheldon said professional mural artists are plentiful in the area.

He said a single mural could cost as little as $10,000 or as much as about $50,000, depending upon its complexity and its size.

Based on the size of available walls in town, “I don’t think we have any $50,000 sites,” Sheldon said, with the possible exception of the parking structure.

Sheldon said the group will seek donations of about $25 to $100 from Hermosans.

“We’re going to try to make this a community based project. We want Hermosans to be stakeholders in this project,” he said.

“We don’t want the whales,” he said, referring to large potential donors such as big corporations.

“When completed, each mural will be a work of art and a source of pride to the community, which will help attract visitors and in turn increase business for the Hermosa Beach merchants,” said another board member and ex-councilman, George Schmeltzer.

Former Councilman J.R. Reviczky also sits on the board.

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