Anne Whitehurst says the professional mural she created for Los Banos is not only an homage to the community’s history, but also reflects a past that, for her, is deeply personal.
“Los Banos is close to my heart,” she said. “I had some incredible memories with my pop.”
The mural, located on the southwestern-facing wall of the building on the east corner of K and Sixth streets, resembles a Wild West scene, depicting a gathering of people in the foreground sitting on chairs drinking, with a barrel for a table.
In the background is the old livery stable as well as other historical buildings.
Whitehurst took walks with her father, who described elements of Los Banos in the early 1900s, including the stable and other elements of “cowboy” Los Banos.
“This is a labor of love,” Whitehurst said.
With the unveiling of her mural during the Fall Street Faire on Sept. 10, Los Banos started what officials are hoping becomes a trail of visual history.
Members of the city’s Community and Economic Development Department, the Los Banos Chamber of Commerce, Milliken Museum and others are hoping a renewed communitywide push to introduce murals to the Los Banos streetscape will enrich the city and become an open history museum for tourists.
The project originally started in 2009 when then-Chamber President Geneva Brett and her husband went to a fast-draw gunfight show in Barstow, she said.
“They had a great mural program,” Brett said.
She came back to Los Banos with the idea of creating a similar program locally, which was supported by the City Council and Los Banos Arts Council.
However, as the recession hit, the project was put on hold.
But in 2012, as the economy began to bounce back, the project was renewed, Los Banos Senior Planner Stacy Souza Elms said.
With the help of others including the Milliken Museum, Los Banos Downtown Association and grants and donations from businesses, city staff raised money in 2013 and 2014 through the sale of calendars, shirts and magnetic buttons to commission two murals.
The livery stable mural was commissioned by the city for $2,000. Whitehurst is working on a second mural to be displayed next to the first one.
That mural, commissioned by the city for $3,000, will focus on the old grammar school, where Westside Union Elementary is now, Souza Elms said. The grammar school burned down in the early 1900s.
Souza Elms said the city hopes to unveil the second mural at the Spring Street Faire.
While the city was working on developing a mural program that focused on downtown Los Banos, Brett and the Chamber also were working on commissioning their own historic murals throughout the city.
Earlier this month, a mural paneled with scenes and graphics depicting California’s historic Buffalo Soldier Trail went up on the southern wall of Circle K, located at Mercey Springs Road and Overland Avenue.
The Buffalo Soldiers were an all-black regiment of troopers from the 24th Infantry and 9th Cavalry who protected Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks in 1899, 1903 and 1904.
The soldiers left Monterey on their journey to the parks, traveling through Los Banos. One of those soldiers, Pvt. Jim Hall, is depicted in the mural.
According to history given in a website about the mural program at www.losbanoshistory.com, Hall fell in love with Los Banos and was a local registered voter in 1905. He died in 1955 and is buried in the Los Banos District Cemetery.
Brett said she hopes the murals educate the public about the rich history of Los Banos. She said she hopes to spur other projects such as a high school “mural-a-day” program in which a master artist shapes the outline of a mural and students fill it in.
Another mural has been commissioned by the Milliken Museum, Director Dan Nelson said. The Milliken Museum has been an integral part of the mural programs, providing photos on which the artists can base their murals.
“There’s a large one going up on the museum wall,” Nelson said. “It’s going to show a variety of historic scenes.”
Vikaas Shanker: 209-826-3831, ext. 6562