Marijke Rowland

Rowland: Off the Wall fundraiser to put art on the walls

Let’s make Modesto beautiful, one wall at a time.

The volunteer group Murals in Mo’town is working on funding for its second city mural. The project, which grew out of the now defunct Commonwealth Modesto, finished its first mural of famed Modesto mountaineer Royal Robbins on the side of Camp 4 Wine Cafe last year.

But large-scale murals like their first effort don’t come cheap – $8,000 to $10,000 is needed for supplies and paint and the artist’s commission.

So now the group is holding a benefit to raise the rest of the money needed for its next project, which will be on a yet-to-be-announced building at J and 15th streets. The Off the Wall fundraiser will begin at 5:30 p.m. tonight at Bella Vagos at 521 McHenry Ave.

The event will feature a pop-up art show, live painting, appetizers, local music and an “edgy, fun, hip” fashion show. In addition, those 21 and over will get a glass of wine. That’s a pretty good deal for $15 in advance or $20 at the door. But it is even better if you think about what the city is getting out of it.

“All of the murals we work on are about celebrating Modesto,” said Murals in Mo’town’s marketing director, Karlha Davies. “We want to celebrate our culture, history, community and agriculture.”

Like the Peer Recovery Art Project and Classic Community Murals, which have been creating “American Graffiti”-inspired murals around town, Murals in Mo’town seeks to beautify, and elevate, the community through art. And the group, a subcommittee of the nonprofit Modesto Neighborhoods community clearinghouse, is another example of Modesto helping Modesto.

What all those lists that keep calling our city the most miserable, the least desirable, etc., fail to take into account is the people we have here. The countless arts groups and individual artists who live and work and play and create here help make all the difference.

The proverbial village that is needed to raise a child is also important when raising a village itself. That means everything from big regional venues like the Gallo Center for the Arts to local art house theaters like the State Theatre and independent stage companies like Prospect Theater Project to the musicians who play at local restaurants and bars and cafes night after night after night.

They perform and produce and, quite literally, are painting the town.

Elsewhere around the Scene:

If you’ve been watching TV of late, you may have noticed some Central Valley residents on the small screen.

In late May, Modesto native Manuel Bermudez competed on the popular quiz show “Jeopardy.” The legal assistant ultimately came in second, with a total of $14,400. But he ran into then-reigning champ Julia Collins’ winning spree, which went on for 20 games.

Back in 1993, The Bee wrote about then 18-year-old Bermudez as he was about to head off to Stanford University as a National Merit Scholar. His “Jeopardy” appearance some 20 years later shows he’s still got it. ...

In early June, Turlock EMT Katie Drueen and her fiancé, Shawn O’Neil, who lives in Oregon, appeared on the “Steve Harvey” show.

The couple was on the daytime talk show to ask host Harvey for fashion help. Drueen wanted to upgrade her fiancé’s look from college student to accomplished academic. ...

And finally, Turlock native Brett Nichols continues to capitalize on his viral success.

The Pitman High incoming senior appeared on ABC’s daytime chatfest “The View” last week. Nichols was on an episode called “Famous from the Web” featuring viral stars. He performed his Michael Jackson “Billy Jean” routine that won him the Pitman talent show and millions of views on YouTube.

In the 41/2-minute segment, Nichols even got to teach hosts Whoopi Goldberg, Jenny McCarthy and Sherri Shepherd a few moves.