The Winters Participation Gallery has been the major stakeholder in the creation of murals around town that depict Winters history.
Winters History Mural artists and instructors gather each summer to work out the details of the projects. Valerie Whitworth, part of the Participation Gallery’s team, said the murals bring Winters history to both community members who are new to town and for those who already live here. Much care, consideration and research goes into the creation of each mural.
Artists (local youth and adults) work side-by-side to learn about the history of Winters as they look through historical photos, documents and stories from residents. From there the artists select symbols to tell a story about Winters history and bring it to life through the mural.
The Participation Gallery looks to support emerging artists and pair them with professionals to model how art can lead to a profession and experience the process first hand. The experience gives them an opportunity to gain skills, learn how to interact with clients and team members as well as about how the process works in itself. The last three installments artists were paired with Winters muralist, Jaime Montiel. Local Winters community member Celestino Galabasa Jr., also stepped in to work on the 2019 Winters Laundryworks mural project and the 2020 John Rogers building mural project.
“We wanted them to learn how they could do this as a profession,” said Whitworth.
The first mural was created by five Winters High School seniors on the back of the Anytime Fitness building on Newt’s Expressway. The second was created on the side of Lorenzo’s Market in the fall of 2018. The third installment on the Winters Laundryworks by First Northern Bank was completed over the summer of 2019. Despite the pandemic, the 2020 mural was created over the summer on the east wall of the Rogers Building along Russell Boulevard.
Winters High School art teacher Kate Humphrey works alongside students on the design process from start to finish. Students spend time working with a client to learn about a vision for the mural. They then do research on Winters history for inspiration. During the process the young artists engage into discussions about history and culture.
“You would be amazed at the deep conversations students have when they are engaged,” Humphrey said.
With the 2019 installment she said the decided theme of the mural focused on the history of the building itself.
“The theme focuses on Winters History, specifically the John Rogers building and the uses that this building has had over its lifetime,” said Humphrey.
The most recent mural on the side of the Winters Market facing the Railroad and Grant Avenues intersection highlights iconic Winters sites, the Mexican folk art of papel picado, a tribute to Winters resident Christopher Mendoza, traditional Winters events and more.
“We pick walls and buildings with an interesting history. We talk to the owner of where we’re painting so they understand it’s part of Winters history and has a connection with the town,” said lead muralist Jaime Montiel. “Part of the projects we do is historical research. We’ve gone to the Yolo County Archives and had speakers like Woody Fridae and Tom Crisp talk to the students involved. This starts conversations with parents and grandparents. From there we come up with a couple of drafts of the mural and decide what’s best for the site.”
Although the project is led by professional muralists, a portion of the creative labor is comprised of students lead by Humphrey and assistant muralist Celestino Galabasa.
Humphrey said there is a bigger picture to the history project than just beautiful murals.
“One of our goals is to work with the Historical Society of Winters and the Winters Chamber of Commerce to develop a Mural Trail that will allow visitors to take a walking tour of our business district and learn about Winters’ rich cultural, economic, agricultural and artistic history,” said Humphrey.
The nonprofit accepts donations to cover insurance for mural projects, purchase supplies, stipends for professional services and provide scholarships for the students.
Direct donations to the Winters Mural Class Fund can be mailed in or made online at https://www.wintersparticipationgallery.org/donate.
See photos of the mural process and more community-participation art projects on https://www.facebook.com/WintersParticipationGallery/. Learn more about the Winters Participation Gallery or donate online at https://www.wintersparticipationgallery.org.
Aaron Geerts contributed to this article.