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Mortimer designing Mantecas next community mural
Muralist Art Mortimer talks about Manteca’s next mural that will celebrate family and the community’s cultural diversity during a Wednesday potluck gathering of the Manteca Mural Society. - photo by HIME ROMERO
Art Mortimer – the appropriately named artist whose work has already been featured in Manteca during a “mural in a day project” that churned out “The Bountiful Valley piece that accentuates downtown slowly sipping a drink in the garden of Liz and Leon Sucht.

On this pleasant Wednesday night, Mortimer is the guest of honor at the outdoor potluck held at the Sucht household. It also features members of the Manteca Mural Society that have helped transform ordinary buildings downtown into massive works of art.

And for Mortimer – the Los Angeles resident that got his start in mural design in the Venice Beach area in 1971 – it was a chance to meet and mingle with the very people who will be assisting him when he returns in October to create something that pays tribute to “The Family City” and the sense of community spirit that has made the mural society a success.

“What will be great about this mural is that we have so many different ethnicities that make up this community right here, and the mural project is what brings everybody together,” Mortimer said. “I still have to return to my studio and come up with an idea of what it will be, but we had a meeting and we want to incorporate a flag – not because it promotes patriotism, but because it unites everybody.”

According to founding member Tom Wilson, the murals themselves have been a great addition to Manteca’s landscape. They have even brought out-of-towners to take a tour to see the different additions over the years that pay tribute to Manteca’s heritage, its history, and its unique charm.

“We’ve had people come downtown and just walk to see the murals and what they bring to the city,” Wilson said. “I think that it’s a great reason for people to come downtown, and so far that’s what we’ve been hearing.

“And my wife Gayl is a huge fan of the arts, and when budgets get tight, usually it’s art that’s the first thing to go. Being that we’re a privately funded non-profit with support from the community, we’ve been able to keep this going, and that’s a great thing.”

A public-private partnership with the City of Manteca’s Redevelopment Agency helps recoup some of the cost for the coating necessary to protect the murals from vandals – like the ones that hit several times, including earlier this year.

But for Mortimer, who will return again before the Manteca Pumpkin Fair on the first weekend in October to go over the design with a team of volunteers, seeing a reception like the one Wednesday night was both refreshing and honoring.

“I’m grateful that there people like this that are care about the art, and that means a lot to me,” he said. “There are people like that in Los Angeles, but they’re few and far between. To see the community come together like this shows me that there truly is a calling for a mural that pays tribute to that.”

The next mural will go on the northern facing wall of the recently remodeled Crystal Downs State farm Insurance Agency office in the 200 block of North Main Street.

For more information on the Manteca Mural Society call Gayl Wilson at 483-8187.