Exeter's Mural Art
Several years ago the people of Exeter, California were faced with the dilemma of how to draw attention to their historic downtown in the midst of an economic recession. Several citizens advanced the notion of blank brick walls about the downtown area being painted with murals depicting the life in and about the community. The first mural was funded by the city government. From then on private individuals and companies commissioned additional art by muralists from the United States and Canada, with the current mural count (May, 2000) now at thirteen. This outdoor art gallery keeps growing, so by the time you visit, don't be surprised to see even more murals.
Exeter's first mural (see left) at the corner of Pine and E Streets was a collaboration of two local artists. "Orange Harvest," 33 x 100 feet, competed in 1996 after six month of work, was designed by Visalia resident Colleen Mitchell-Veyna and painted by Morgan McCall and Mitchell-Veyna. The mural depicts a scene of citrus pickers in the 1930s. This mural overlooks downtown's Mister Park.
Additional Exeter murals include:
"Packing Ladies" (see left) Artist: Colleen Mitchell-Veyna; located just south of "Orange Harvest" mural (1997). This mural of the Exeter Citrus Packing House, circa 1950, illustrates ladies packing and grading oranges while the foreman, Bud Berger kept a watchful eye. The fresh fruit came in from the fields and onto the grading belts.
"The Emperor Grape Festival" Artist: John Ton, Santa Cruz, CA; location: NW corner of Pine & D St. (1997) This mural salutes Exeter's Fall Festival which began in 1913 when the ladies of the Presbyterian Church put on a Chrysanthemum Fair with a carnival and a children's parade. By 1931 it became the Emperor Grape Festival. It is now called the Exeter Fall Festival.
"Cattle Drive Down Rocky Hill" (see right) Artist: Nadi Spencer, Three Rivers, CA; location: 140 E. Palm St. (1997) This mural depicts Mr. Adolph Gill guiding a herd of cattle around Rocky Hill. The Gill Cattle Company of Exeter was established in the late 1800s and is still in operation. It was once the largest cattle ranching business in the U.S., owning and leasing more than 6 million acres of land in 9 western states.
"Yokuts Harvest" Artist: (see right) Ben Barker, Susanville, CA; location: NW corner of Pine & E St. (1997) The Yokuts Harvest portrays the agrarian lifestyle of the local Yokuts Indians collecting sourberries during the spring in an oak forest near Exeter. The artistry of authentic Indian baskets is shown in this mural.
"Poppies & Lupine" (see left) Artist: Varian Mace, Visalia, CA; located east of the "Packing Ladies" mural (1998). This mural features the natural history and beauty of the valley. California poppies in the foreground provide rich contrast to the purple and blue lupine. The foreground is of the Kaweah River before it became what is now known as Kaweah Lake, a place about 10 miles northeast of Exeter en-route to Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks.
From Foundry to Field" (see left) Artist: Ken Cardoza, Hillsboro, OR; location: North wall of 125 S. F St. (1998) This mural depicts the past and present of Waterman Industries, a foundry established in Exeter in 1912. Waterman Industries designs, manufactures and ships irrigation equipment throughout the world. Hidden in this mural are a shoe, a "W" and an outhouse.
"Leta & Hawtoy - Future Generation" (see right) Artist: Ivonne Nagel, Glendale, CA; location: 207 E. Pine St. (1998) Dressed in native costumes made by their grandparents, Leta & Hawtoy lived near Exeter and attended Exeter schools. During her first year in school where all other children were white, Leta completed two years of work in one and was among the head of her class.
"4th of July in Exeter" Artist; Gary Kerby, Wilsall MT. Located on E St., near Pine St. (1999). This mural honors "Lion John Schultz" for 50 years (1946-1996) of extraordinary service to the people of Exeter and the surrounding communities for his leadership as chief pyrotechnician at the annual Lions Club free 4th of July fireworks.
"Exeter Fruit Labels " (see left) Artist: Lola Collins, Exeter, CA; location: Pine Street, on the east wall of the Coast to Coast Hardware store (1999). Several citrus and grape labels from Exeter's packing houses are the focus of this mural.
"Our Town, Circa 1925" Artist: James Fahnestock, Fallbrook, CA; location (Bank of America) 100 E. Pine St. (1999). This mural looks as if it's a page from an old photo album. It is of Exeter's Pine St. about 1925. Images of George Washington and Mickey Mouse are hidden in this mural.
"Golden Harvest" (see left) Artist: Claudia Fletcher, Clovis, CA; location: side wall at 158 E. Pine St. (2000). This mural depicts wheat harvesting in Mehrten valley circa 1915. The men on the harvester were from local families.
Exeter, California is in the verdant San Joaquin Valley close to Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks. For more information phone 209-592-2919. Right: Exeter's newest mural which depicts the grape harvest, located just north of Pine Street between D and E Streets, as of May, 2000, artist not identified.
Other California Murals
During the Great Depression many murals were commissioned in California by federal agencies. Others were sponsored then and afterwards by private individuals and firms.. Some artists include::
See California State Capitol Museum
Story by John Hazeltine with information provided by Exeter Chamber of Commerce. Photos © 2000 by John Hazeltine
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