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Murals convey history, cultural lessons
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Muralist Dave Gordon, center, is surrounded by some of those that helped paint the Mossdale Crossing mural on the wall of The Spin Cycle in the 100 block of East Yosemite Avenue. - photo by GLENN KAHL/The Bulletin

Some see it as public art, but muralist Dave Gordon believes the ongoing Manteca Mural Society project is successfully telling the history, culture and economic vitality of the community.

Fifteen years after the dedication of the first mural — Crossroads 1918 gracing the South Main Street wall of Century Furniture — a number of those that helped paint the latest mural depicting the actual final link of the Transcontinental Railroad being completed at nearby Mossdale Crossing on the San Joaquin River on the side of The Spin Cycle in the 100 block of East Yosemite Avenue posed for a group photo.

Gordon, who has now completed 65 site-specific murals across the United States, designed the railroad mural that was the sixth “Mural in a Weekend” project undertaken by the Manteca Mural Society.

“They (the mural society) have done a good job conveying to all new residents the history of the community,” Gordon noted Tuesday during a photo shoot that followed him making the final touches on the mural that was mostly completed by community members during the Pumpkin Fair the first weekend in downtown Manteca.

Of the 30 murals in the downtown area, Gordon was commissioned to do a number of them including the Crossroads 1918 and Cruising murals as well as four of the six “Mural in a Weekend” projects that include Manteca Snow, Cow-munity, Free for All, and Mossdale Crossing.

Gordon praised the attention the Mural Society has given to details such as historical research, community input, muralist competition, proper preparation of the painting surfaces, and making sure the quality of the actual mural is done in a manner that it can weather the elements as well as possible.

Mural society member Gayl Wilson noted that is why Manteca’s murals typically cost $25,000 apiece as they aren’t simply placing art on the wall.

The Downtown Manteca Mural endeavor is the largest public arts project of its kind in the Northern San Joaquin Valley.

Gordon attended the San Francisco Arts Institute and then UCLA where he received a Bachelors’ of Arts Degree in Anthropology in 1980 while employed as an illustrator for the Archeological Survey.

Not thrilled about being behind a desk, he studied paining at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Bourges, France. He left that school and hitchhiked across Europe, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Nepal painting small murals in exchange for room and board.

He worked on a team that painted murals for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

Gordon’s first commissioned mural is the 35-foot high by 600-foot creation dubbed “Unbridled” on a Santa Monica underpass he designed and painted in 1985. It depicts the wooden carousel horses from the Santa Monica Pier coming to life as 25-foot high creatures in the aftermath of a major storm slamming the pier. It was inspired by a 1982 El Nino event that damaged the pier. The 8,400-square-foot mural is on Ocean Park Boulevard.

“They’ve probably spent more money on upkeep of the mural than what they paid me,” joked Gordon who noted the mural is still in place 32 years later.

Those who helped paint the Mossdale Crossing mural were Angelo Abreu, Elisa Alvarez, Bill and Patti Barnhart, Patty Beall, Ryan Black, Edie Brown, Bill and Brenda Buffington, Charleen Carroll, Allison Carter, Chuck Crutchfield, Ron and  Lori Cruz, Kathaleen De Salles, Matt Edmonson, Jeanette Farley, Marlene Figone, Dinah Fuentes, Fred Gallegos, Gil Garcia, Tiny Gehrke, Jennifer Gibson Greenwood, Amber Golisano, Joanna Gross, Brandon Gross, Diane Guice, Carol Hargreaves, Michael Heinze, Richard Hiatt, Terri Johnson, Efren and Paula Juarez, Jana Kattenhorn, John Kellner, Melanie Marks-Edmonson, Susan Maxwell, Richard Michael McDonnell, Coleen Meade, Esau Mendoza, Larry Miller, Susan and Robert Milner, Arthur Molina, Ray and Pepper Noble, Nicholas O’Brien, Melanie Parker, Terri Pasquiini, Becky Peck, Inga Perry, Alan Peterson, Tonya Peterson, Mike Pettingill, George Phillips, Diana Ramsey, Danessa Reyes, Sharon Richina, Larry Schneider, Arthur Smith, Jr., Doug & Donna Sommerfield, and Cleve and Donna Stafford.

For more information on the mural society, visit

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email