Ukiah adopted a Public Art Policy in 2016 to create a process for the city to acquire public art. A stated goal of the policy is to promote art that creates a unique sense of place and communicates a strong civic identity for the City of Ukiah.
Prior to seeking submissions, an arts committee and members of the public established desired themes for this project:
- Pride in our unique and diverse community
- Ukiah’s characteristic landscape of agriculture and beautiful natural scenery
- A positive sense of the future
- As the county seat, Ukiah represents a wider community than those who live within city limits. Many of us who reside elsewhere come here to work, shop, and visit. The mural represents this bigger Mendocino family and its stories seen through the lens of Ukiah.
- This huge wall was perfect for my idea of a narrative history, a depiction of the region’s past and present, with an expression of our hopes and dreams for the future. The wall is split into a series of vertical panels, a layout that lends itself to a chronological march of historical events, achievements and realities. Each panel represents an essential chapter in our story through a specific scene, but for each one of these I could probably have used 10 other subjects!
- The mural is designed to harmonize with the Art Deco style and color scheme of the Conference Center.
- At the top of each panel I have painted an architectural element containing one inspirational or descriptive word. These words relate to that scene and to other parts of our story as well.
- The stage for each scene is our beautiful landscape, which begins to connect behind the separate vignettes. The distant hills and sky form a continuous, luminous upper element of the entire mural and create a backdrop for the hills, forest, vineyards, orchards, fields and rangeland within which human endeavor takes place.
East half of the mural
The first scene depicts the natural world that existed here for millennia before humans arrived in North America. It is an autumn landscape painted in gold tones that transition smoothly from the colors of the building.
Our hemisphere was a rich and diverse environment for millennia, only inhabited by humans late in the game.* This panel shows that abundance of native flora and fauna.
*Humans crossed the Bering Strait into North America probably about 15,000 years ago. By contrast, humans evolved in Africa by 200,000 years ago and began moving into Asia and Europe by about 60,000 years ago.
The next set of four panels represents the story of the indigenous tribes and the life they led in their “deep or southern valley,” giving us the word Yokaya (subsequently “Yokayo”) and the contemporary name Ukiah. Native people flourished here for more than 10,000 years, developing a sustainable and efficient lifestyle.
In fact, what we know as California was a vast land whose natural bounty lent itself to the management techniques of its human inhabitants, giving rise to a large native population of about 300,000. California was possibly the most densely populated region north of Mexico in the years before Columbus arrived in the Western Hemisphere.
The next section represents our region as it changed drastically during the 1800s with colonization by Spain, then Mexico, and mass immigration after it became part of the United States.
Between 1850 and 1910, Mendocino County and the Ukiah Valley saw the growth of government in the administration panel, transportation, agriculture and timber, plus education in the extra fifth panel, seen below.
West half of the mural
The fourth section contains the important subject of labor, as well as ranching in independence, wine-making in excellence, and the marijuana economy beginning with the back-to-the-land movement of the sixties in the love panel.
SECTION FIVE includes heritage, hospitality, manufacturing and innovation, as we move into modern times.
Because the final panel of SECTION SIX is double width, the last part of the mural has only three subjects – service, remembrance, and our future together. Seen here as they were left in the winter of 2019.