Sonora mural painting ready to begin

Gary Linehan, The Union Democrat /

After nearly 10 months of preparation, the Sonora Farmers Market mural painting days are at hand.On Saturday and Sunday, more than 60 artists will join Sonora artist Judy Grossman as they create an historic piece of public art.

With more than 125 volunteers and nearly 175 community sponsors, the Public Art Tuolumne County steering committee invites the whole community to attend the two-day painting celebration.

"We're so excited that our painting days are finally here," said committee co-chairwoman Laurie Schwartz Lehmann. "We've planned two days of enjoyable viewing for the public, while we also offer lots of support to those artists who will be working hard to get the job done."

Public Art TC and its six committee members have been on a roll to guarantee that the mural would become a reality.

"We're at this momentous point," said Sarah Rogers Nesper, the committee's other co-chairwoman, "when everything coalesces into this beautiful piece of art. And it's going to be an occasion!"

With live music planned, a children's art activity area, seating for spectators and creature comforts for the many artists, Public Art TC welcomes spectators to come out for a glimpse.

"We'll have chairs set up where people can sit and enjoy this experience," said committee member Katie Dunn. "Of course, folks might want to bring their own folding chairs, just in case we get a crowd."

Both painting days, Saturday and Sunday, begin at 7 a.m. and run until 6:30 p.m. A full schedule of events is on tap with at least 10 musical acts, who are volunteering their time and talents.

"We've lined up folk singers Bill Roberson and Sandy Shoor, Swing Gitane, the Coyote Hill band, the popular Celtic group Sequoia, cowboy crooner Tater Learned, folkster Sean Brennan, the bluegrass band Potluck, singer Karl Dambacher and the Fiddle Gang with a story thrown in here and there through the weekend," said committee member and storyteller B.Z. Smith. "We also have amazing creative support from ReVamp Recyclery for the children's art area."

Smith noted that ReVamp's Jen Fletcher and other volunteers are planning a chance for children to make their own mural and create art with recycled and repurposed materials.

Information on the specific schedule for weekend entertainment and activities is posted at the project's website: www.mural-in-a-day-sonora.org.

On Saturday, entertainment and children's art will begin after the regular Sonora Certified Farmers Market wraps up about 11:30 a.m.

"But mural painting starts at 7 a.m., so we'll be working side-by-side with the farmers market," ssaid committee member Sally Dunn. "Then immediately after the market, we will be ready to go with our special events."

Saturday painting will continue until 6:30 p.m.

Sunday's events begin with more mural painting at 7 a.m. Then children's art activities begin at 10 a.m. with the live music resuming at 11:30 a.m.

"It's going to be so exciting to watch this mural just steadily emerge!" said committee member Robin Phillips. "We owe the community so much gratitude for helping us make this happen. We want everyone to recognize that the entire community played a role in making this happen. We just hope that people will love the mural so much that it will bring joy for many years to come."

At the end of the weekend, the committee and building owner Zac Garman plan a barbecue for the volunteers.

"This project runs deep in my heart," Grossman said. "I'm so honored to finally have one of my outdoor murals in my own hometown."

Joining Grossman are over 60 local artists, who have all participated in training and orientation sessions that were supported by a grant from the Sonora Area Foundation.

"We had two amazing weekend mural workshops for teen artists just two weeks ago," said Heather Acuña, Grossman's mural project assistant. "Then last Saturday nearly 45 adults attended an orientation session where Judy outlined exactly what each person's job will be."

From mixing paint to adding brush strokes, these artists of all ages will make their mark on this lasting art piece.

"And then there are all of the volunteers, who have been working behind the scenes," Phillips comments. "Several businesses also have stepped up to help The list is so long. And then we have groups like the Girl Scouts who are working with Ida Ponder to sew neck coolers so that all of our artists can stay cool during these two days."

The Public Art TC committee invites the entire community to stop by some time during the painting.

"Even if you can only stay for a few minutes, you'll have a chance to see this whole event in process," Nesper said.

She noted that this group pulled together just after Eleazar "Ed" Rodriguez, the farmers market flower vendor, died in a car crash.

"We were all heartsick, and wanted to help provide a loving tribute to him. And we wanted to recognize how much we all love and appreciate our local farmers and ranchers."

Lehmann said the mural will provide a chance to remember the Sonora Farmers Market year-round.

"Every spring we all look forward to the opening of the market," she said. "It represents the very best of who we are as a community."

And what about more public art for Tuolumne County?

Nesper noted that this group of community-minded women is ready for a little rest.

"We're all greatly inspired by the outpouring of support for this project," she said. "And we've gotten plenty of input that the people of Tuolumne County want more. Imagine that."

Just as Public Art TC wraps up this project, the City of Sonora has decided to offer opportunities for more public art with the construction of the Mono Way Wall project.

In addition, one of the mural's sponsors, the Tuolumne County Arts Alliance, which is also the county's designated public agency for the arts, has recently established a committee to explore more public art for the area, and plans to begin activities that encourage more beautification through art.

"Our group's efforts have shown civic leaders that a bunch of dedicated and committed individuals can make things happen and that the public is truly hungry for more of this," Nesper said. "We hope that we've just opened the door and shown a manageable process for beautifying our community while we tell its many stories through art."

On Saturday, Oct. 5, beginning at 12:30 p.m., the public is invited to attend a short Sonora Farmers Market dedication ceremony when a plaque, honoring "Ed" Rodriguez will be mounted at the mural site.

For more information on the mural paintings days and background on Mural-In-A-Day-Sonora. visit the group's website at www.mural-in-a-day-sonora.org, which includes a full list of sponsors and donors.

To submit ideas for more public art for Tuolumne County, contact Tuolumne County Arts Alliance at 532-2787 or visit www.tuolumne countyarts.org.

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