Eyes are scratched out.
Mustaches are drawn on faces.
Sections are vandalized.
Food smeared across images.
After years of relatively little vandalism, a number of the 32 murals put in place on downtown walls by the Manteca Mural Society since 2002 are under attack in areas where the homeless congregate.
Ironically the homeless indirectly caused the loss of the non-profit mural society’s biggest fundraising event — passing the boot once a year at the corner of Yosemite Avenue and Main Street. That’s because in order to outlaw panhandling at intersections and not run afoul of court rulings, the city had to enforce a ban against all solicitations including the Manteca Firefighters Association that used to pass the boot at South Main Street and Mission Ridge Drive to assist young burn victims.
The pandemic that has also put other fundraising avenues on hold also created a situation for months where the state prohibited cities from moving illegal encampments in public places such as the one that was in place for months along the Tidewater Bike Way near Library Park.
It has created a situation where the mural society is drawing down its funds while trying to do routine mural maintenance work caused by the weather and now having to deal with a significant increase in damages.
The hardest hit is the baseball mural in Library Park near the gazebo. The nearly 100 faces in the crowd as well as other parts of the mural have been repeatedly vandalized.
The vandalism picked up just as the society entered into a two-year undertaking to make sure protective coatings on all murals are still doing their job and if not recoating them. It also included having muralists touch up faded or weather damaged sections.
Part of that effort was to restore the nighttime lighting for the popular Cruising mural in the 100 block of North Main Street on the north facing wall of Accent Carpet.
Society President Ron Cruz said the non-profit was concerned they’d have to spend thousands of dollars to get the lights working again. After looking at it, volunteers discovered water damage had caused the lights to fail. Joe Tubbs looked at various electrical components and determined they were repairable. Tubbs did the work at no charge. Building owner Janet Thornton stepped up and replaced the gutters. All that left the society to do was to spend $300 to buy 13 new state-of-the-art LED lights.
Now the Cruising mural lights come on at dusk and go off at dawn just like the lights on the only other murals that are lit at night — the five murals honoring veterans across the street on the Manteca Bedquarters wall.
Rehab work has been done on murals such as Pitching Pumpkins and Free for All. But it is the Baseball mural that $3,000 worth of repairs has been done on so far, that keeps getting the most repeat damage.
Cruz has started going by Library Park at around 9:30 p.m. now that the city can once again legally close parks to everyone — including the homeless — at night. The first time he saw 16 homeless congregating by the mural and called Manteca Police dispatch. Officers came and the homeless moved out. The next time it was 11 and the third time 9. Each time police were called and they cleared the homeless out.
“Hopefully they are getting the message,” Cruz said of the homeless.
Cruz said the society is asking the city for a $20,000 grant to help with the repair work.
The mural project was started as a way to create a downtown draw as well as provide the community with public art that reflects its history, culture, and economy.
Information on the mural society and how you can donate to help them can be found at mantecamurals.org.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email firstname.lastname@example.org