If Walls Could Talk…
Behind the scenes of the Hermosa Beach Murals Project.
- Written byKatrina
What would they say? Perhaps their conversations would circle around breathtaking sunsets, cruisers converging on The Strand and memories of raiding the old pier candy store before cutting loose on the dance pavilion floor.
Luckily, artists have begun translating these stories to beautiful effect. Take a walk past Hermosa Avenue at 11th Court or where Pier Avenue meets Manhattan Avenue, and you’ll see how such scenes from our shared past and present come to life in new and exciting ways.
Thanks to the Hermosa Beach Mural Project (HBMP), formed by local volunteers, 10 murals will be funded over the course of 10 years, capturing the history of one of the South Bay’s oldest cities in large-scale art. According to the project coordinators, “This is a way for Hermosa Beach to identify with what the city means to us, its citizens, and to educate our youth and the public on the rich and eclectic wonderment that makes Hermosa Beach a unique city located on the Pacific Ocean.”
The walls that will ultimately become blank canvases must pass a few guidelines first. Searching for walls that are big enough and viewable is a continuous effort, requiring permission from the building owner—and oftentimes individual tenants—to paint and agree to leave the mural up for at least 10 years.
After selecting one or more potential sites, the board begins discussing general themes, which are shared with promising muralists to learn what they envision for the site. “Muralists like to know where their mural will go before they get too serious about developing the concept,” points out theme and concept director, George Schmeltzer.
Once the right muralist is chosen, the creative baton is passed from committee to artist for a final rendering. The parties begin to visualize, for instance, the larger-than-life trumpet portrayed by John Pugh for the “Hermosa Beach Jazz” mural … or the modern young woman—modeled by the artist’s daughter—tossing a can of paint onto a wall that fans out into a scene of Hermosa Beach circa 1909 in Chris Coakley’s “Splash” mural.
Hermosa’s very first mural, officially named “Beautiful Hermosa Beach, Pier Avenue Circa 1924,” was completed by the noted Californian muralist Art Mortimer. “It’s always thrilling when a community allows me to come into their town and create a piece of my artwork that ultimately becomes a part of their community,” reflects Art, who describes his experience painting Pier Avenue akin to traveling back in time.
“When painting the mural, I get very involved in the details of the buildings, the town, and in the people pictured—trying to imagine what life and that place were like nearly 90 years ago so that I can put that energy and reality into my painting. I feel like I know it so well that it’s almost like I had been there, back in 1924, or like I have visited that place some time in my past.”
Hermosa Beach’s fourth mural is scheduled for completion in 2013. “We are currently in the very beginning phases of mural number four, looking at sites and discussing themes,” reports John Horger, head of the site selection committee. He adds that although the scope is still large, locations being discussed include the old Biltmore Hotel and the AT&SF rail line, to name a few.
The final renderings of completed murals are used to create digital prints to be signed and numbered by the artist and sold as fine art to the public. The sales of these prints are a large part of the HBMP effort to fund the next mural.
The Hermosa Beach Young Professionals, in conjunction with the Hermosa Beach Chamber of Commerce, recently held a fundraiser at the Hermosa Beach Comedy and Magic Club (right across the street from mural number three) that raised $540 for the project. When the money was presented to the president of Hermosa Beach Murals Project, Chuck Sheldon, he assured the crowd, “There’s plenty more paint to go around.”
Want to find out more or even get involved? www.hermosamurals.org
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Camera in hand, a local photographer hits the piers of the South Bay to meet a gamut of men flecking the railings of early morning and late afternoon, when the fish below are plentiful and hungry.