MODESTO — Whoa, Nellie, hold your horses and your bloomers!
A community column in the April 11 Bee piqued my interest. Patricia Kopf wrote, "Councilman John Gunderson has introduced an idea to our City Council suggesting that walls on commercial buildings in downtown Modesto would be a suitable canvas for select 'graffiti artists.' "
The city, in regard to public art, deals with city property rather than private property. The project referred to is being discussed with Gunderson and owner of the building which housed the former Paper Moon Restaurant. This particular alley "Artists Alley," from I to J streets between 10th and 11th streets was painted by members of the Central California Art Association in the '60s and '90s and by Modesto Junior College students and other artists at different times.
Currently there is nothing on City Council agendas regarding this matter, as it is private property. The statement that "He has even initiated a task force to ramrod these absurd notions upon our community" is flawed. There is work for a proposed ordinance regarding public art on city property. This does not deal with private property.
Tagging is an community concern on both public and private property that the Police Department deals with daily.
The Police Department defines "graffiti" as gang related, generic, hate, promotional or political, and "tagging" as fame, communicating to challenge or make a presence known.
Both the city and the Police Department have programs to tackle tagging problems.
A Modesto definition of "graffiti" would relate to the cruising popular in our city's history and immortalized in the George Lucas' film "American Graffiti." In June, it is celebrated with classic car parades, concerts and showings of this movie.
The Camp 4 building on Needham Avenue is the subject of a future mural project by CommonWealth Modesto, a civic organization of young professionals. CommonWealth has groups coming together under a common umbrella to work in pods, to practice civic responsibility.
The purpose of CommonWealth Modesto is to improve the community. One pod is striving to raise funding for a mural on the side of the Camp 4 building owned by Liz and Royal Robbins. With imaginative fund-raisers involving community leaders and elected officials, they are working for additional funding. In the past this building had a beautiful mural by Jeff Yunt. It is highly unlikely that this proposed mural would be "defacing local buildings."
The murals that are on the walls of 13th and J, the Chamber of Commerce and Downey Street were installed with private contributions. Classic Community Murals are sponsored by ModestoView, Peer Recovery Gallery, Sierra Pacific Warehouse Group, the Modesto Chamber of Commerce and artist Aaron Vickery, and are presented to the community as a celebration of our history, to beautify our city for our residents and visitors.
The city of Modesto has a Culture Commission, which advises the city on matters pertaining to art, literature, music, McHenry Museum, McHenry Mansion and cultural activities in the city. The Modesto Public Art Committee is a subcommittee of the Culture Commission and serves as an advisory body to the City Council on all matters relating to art in public places. They are responsible for public art elements for the city of Modesto's public buildings, including 10th Street Place, Peter Shire's ceramic murals at Ninth and K streets. Most recently, the Push Car Sculpture on the Virginia Corridor was dedicated in June.
Sparkman serves on the Modesto Culture Commission and chairs the Modesto Public Art Committee.