.Southern Visions

New mural, art exhibit sprout in Watsonville

In addition to its productive agricultural fields, Watsonville is also fertile ground for public art, from the murals of historic produce labels to the annual outdoor sculpture exhibits at Sierra Azul Nursery & Gardens.

Last week, a new mural sprouted up downtown and an exhibit of work by Watsonville teens opened at Pajaro Valley Arts.

Dozens of people gathered in downtown Watsonville on May 17 to celebrate the completion of a new large outdoor mural at Community Bridges at the corner of Main Street and East Lake Avenue.

Titled “Wisdom of Our Elders,” the colorful 225-foot-by-32-foot mural represents a collaboration between Community Bridges, Elderday and California-based Chicano muralists Augie WK and Jessica Carmen, known as The Jams.

Community Bridges spokesman Tony Nunez said the mural reflects “the depth of knowledge accumulated over a lifetime, the importance of history and the strength of our community.”

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He added that numerous local groups came together to ensure that the mural reflects the diverse and vibrant voices of the community.

“This mural is more than just artwork; it’s a celebration of life’s beauty and the many joys of aging. It stands as a testament to the invaluable contributions of our older adults and the wisdom that they impart on all of us.”

The ribbon-cutting ceremony coincided with Older Americans Month.

Lois Sones, program director for Elderday, described the mural ceremony as a milestone: “Two years ago today we were standing right here breaking ground for this building, changing it from a discount mall to a state of art facility for older adults.”

She highlighted how Elderday moved from Santa Cruz to Watsonville “with absolutely no interruption in service.”

Describing the mural as “one of the largest canvases we’ve ever created on,” Jessica Carmen says that she and Augie WK did a great deal of community outreach to draw out memories and stories to incorporate into the mural.

Community Bridges CEO Ray Cancino says the mural is a “wonderful representation of the work that we do” and he points out that Central Coast Alliance for Health and other groups played big roles in funding the project.

According to a press release, Community Bridges intends to use compelling imagery to celebrate seniors and “illuminate their indispensable role in our daily lives, while also emphasizing our shared commitment to providing them with the care, support, and dignity they rightfully deserve.”

The mural showcases various elements honoring older adults, including a cheerful man and a dignified woman known as “El Don y La Doña.” The figures are a composite of numerous grandparents from the community and former Elderday participants. In between the portraits are several “memory bubbles,” capturing moments shared between elders and younger generations.

On the other end of the generational spectrum, a new exhibit by local high school students in the Teen Artes program opened the same day in the Pajaro Valley Arts Porter Building.

The show features mixed media, paintings, collage, ceramic sculpture and other mediums by four students from Watsonville, Aptos and St. Francis High schools as well as alumni, and teaching artists.

The show was curated by Teen Artes participants in 2023-2024 with the help of local artist Josefina Rocha.

Teen artist Yasmín Salas shared her thoughts on participating in the exhibit. “I’ve always been shy and art was my main way to express myself, ideas, and creativity. What inspires me to create is my love for nature and my Mexican culture. I enjoy walking around Watsonville admiring the murals by local artists,” Salas said. “I especially enjoy working with fellow teen artists from Watsonville. Teen Artes has been a supportive and creative hub for me and I loved meeting fellow young artists in Watsonville. I have learned so much from being a part of Teen Artes, such as marketing techniques, how to wire paintings, and how to curate a gallery. This is an experience I will carry with me for the rest of my life.”

The Teen Artes show runs through June 30 at the Porter Building at 280 Main St. in Watsonville, Wednesday through Sunday 11am–4pm.


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Tarmo Hannula
Tarmo Hannula has been the lead photographer with The Pajaronian newspaper in Watsonville since 1997. He also reports on a wide range of topics, including police, fire, environment, schools, the arts and events. A fifth generation Californian, Tarmo was born in the Mother Lode of the Sierra (Columbia) and has lived in Santa Cruz County since the late 1970s. He earned a BA from UC Santa Cruz and has traveled to 33 countries.
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