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Five more murals on horizon for downtown
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Tom Wilson remembers the fight over the unique Jack-in-the Box fast food store design when the Manteca Mural Society was in its infancy.

“It was considered by many as too avant-garde for Manteca,” Wilson recalled of the Jack-in-the-Box on East Yosemite Avenue.

While Wilson doesn’t believe the space-age look has withstood the test of time, he still thinks it was better than putting up another boxy building dominated by square lines.

“Arts celebrate a finer part of humanity,” Wilson noted, adding that architecture can be an art form unto itself.

It is one of the reasons that prompted Wilson to gather together several people 10 years ago to share his vision of public art by forming the Manteca Mural Society.

The non-profit is about to take on its next project that is essentially a city space that had art built in as a key element from the start - the expanded Library Park.

The park has been designed to accommodate five 8-foot-high murals with the longest being 105 feet wide. When completed visitors will be able to view six of the Manteca Historical Society’s murals by walking around Library Park including “Manteca Snow” depicting the almond blossom season located on the backside of a building directly across Manteca Avenue.

Muralist Dave Gordon whose previous work included the Cruising Mural in the 100 block of North Main and The Crossroads Mural in the 100 block of South Main has been commissioned to do the largest of the five murals. That mural will be a salute to Manteca’s baseball history.

Manteca artists Terri Pasquini and Jess Marinas have been selected to do two of the four murals. Their subjects are native Manteca area Indians and early Manteca pioneers. A meeting takes place Thursday at 3 p.m. at the Civic Center council chambers, 1001 W. Center St., to select the two remaining muralists. There are four vying to be selected for the agriculture and industry themes of the two other murals.

The murals will be in keeping with the society’s goal of educating and inspiring as well as depicting the community’s culture, history and economy.

Since the mural society’s inception, the city has stepped up its effort to depart from purely functional design in public venues. The first was veterans plaza created in conjunction with the Yosemite Mural in the 200 block of East Yosemite Avenue. Next was the surface of the interactive water feature at Library Park. It incorporates area history, commerce, farming, waterways, and Indian history rolled up into one design.

The city’s new animal shelter - arguably the most dynamic visually of all municipal buildings - also reflected an emphasis on employing art through architecture.

“I like to think that we (the society) have played some role in encouraging more public art in Manteca,” Wilson said.

Wilson noted the society opted not to do a Mural-in-a-Weekend during this year’s Pumpkin Fair given the Library Park project. He noted it was a matter of being able to do murals right and not have resources splintered.

“Hopefully we may have a Mural-in-a-Weekend project in conjunction with the street fair in April,” Wilson said.