Mural group wants building on First Street for new art installation

A mural similar to one created last year could be installed on a historic building steps away from several downtown businesses in Winters.
FILE: A mural on the side of the Lorenzo's Town and Country Market in Winters is captured in an undated photograph. Photo by Matthew Keys/Winters Express
FILE: A mural on the side of the Lorenzo’s Town and Country Market in Winters is captured in an undated photograph. Photo by Matthew Keys/Winters Express

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One year after student artists created a mural on the side of Lorenzo’s grocery store, a similar group of artists could be crafting a much-larger mural on a historic downtown building.

A proposal to create a new mural on the side of a city-owned building was put forth to the city council during a presentation at last week’s council meeting by Winters High School art instructor Kate Humphrey and volunteers Liz Coman and Valerie Whitworth.

The proposal calls for the installation of a mural at 201 First St., also known as the Rogers Building. The building currently houses the Winters Chamber of Commerce, the Winters Barber Company, Winters Museum and the editorial offices of the Winters Express newspaper.

How a mural would be installed on the Rogers Building is still up for debate. The mural group is first seeking city approval to host the mural before going ahead with plans.

“I have really long term plans for that — the board doesn’t know all about them yet, nor do we probably have the means to do that at this point,” Coman said. But in her mind, she said she envisioned a mural that wrapped around the building.

The building, Coman said, provided “a lot of fodder for material” on what the mural could incorporate. The building was previously used by the Army Corps of Engineers during construction on the Monticello Dam and served at one point as a courthouse and a library, she said.

Humphrey emphasized certain lessons they learned last year when working on the Lorenzo’s mural, including “how to visualize, how to compromise, and they learned about the town in where they live.

“We need more of this,” Humphrey said. “As Winters continues to grow and change, it will be the people who carry on the stories of the past. For students who participate in the mural project, connecting with the past can be …a chance to be a part of history and not simply a witness to it.”

It could cost more than $14,000 to install a mural on the Rogers Building, according to documents reviewed by the Express ahead of last week’s meeting. But Humphrey argued the return on that investment was significant in that additional art installations could generate a significant bump for the city’s economy.

“Art actually improves the economy, and there’s money to be had if we support the arts,” Whitworth argued. “There’s ways to bring art into an economic focus and I would like the council to begin to think that way.”

Whitworth drew on two real-world examples to make her case. First, she noted that the National Endowment for the Arts recently issued a grant to Lake County to improve its tourism industry through additional art installations. She also pointed to the Italian island of Sardinia, a location that “could have been overlooked” had it not been for murals and other artwork that has drawn significant interest for tourists.

Murals in Winters, on the other hand, could give people who come to town to eat or shop a reason to stick around a bit longer. In the short term, it may give a handful of teenagers in Winters something to do with their summer and a voice where they may otherwise not have one.

“I attended the dedication of the mural at Lorenzo’s last summer, and I was extremely impressed with the kids that participated in that,” Mayor Pro Tempore Wade Cowan said. “Every one of them stood up and spoke about their experience, and it was all very positive; a good percentage of the students got up and said, I’m not even an art student I just wanted something to do, and they were extremely proud of what they’ve done.”

Authorization to allow the group to use the Rogers Building for their next project has been placed on the consent calendar for the April 2 city council meeting.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified the building at 201 First Street as the “Rodgers Building.” It is the Rodgers Building.]]>

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