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Murals bring slice of life to Somerton walls
SOMERTON — This city's efforts to sell itself to visitors now are coming at the tip of a paintbrush.
James C. Mulligan, a California muralist, is at work on the second of five murals he is painting on walls along Main Street, in a project city officials hope will not only make storefronts more attractive but bring more dollars to the businesses inside.
The goal is to “create another attraction for the city, one that helps to bring visitors and that helps local businesses and economic development,” said Alex Bejarano, public relations director for the Somerton-based health organization Regional Center for Border Health (RCBH), which is funding the project.
Mulligan's first mural, wrapped up two weeks ago, depicts a baker extracting loaves of bread from an oven. It's appropriately located next to Elvira's Bakery, a business well-known to Somerton residents.
The intent, said Bejarano, is “to reflect something of each business where a mural will be located, so that it helps the business itself.”
Mulligan currently is at work at the former site of the Del Sol Market on the west end of town, where he is painting a mural of a seated man reading a newspaper.
The idea, said Mulligan, in creating the murals along Main is to create an “artistic corridor,” one that will attract people who will end up spending money with the city's businesses.
The concept of the project evolved from creating “purely pictorial” images to painting murals that reflect daily life, said Mulligan, owner of Mulligan Pictorials in Orange County.
“I do a lot of murals. I believe I've done hundreds, but this is a little different. The idea was that it appear that the people are really involved in the murals and that they are telling a story.”
As Mulligan was interviewed, the themes of the remaining murals had not yet fully defined. But when completed, the second will portray a solitary newspaper reader seated on a tree-shaded bench with birds perched nearby.
The intent, said Mulligan, is “to reflect a scene of peacefulness and to give color to walls that look somewhat empty.”
The RCBH allocated nearly $25,000 for the project, and after seeking mural proposals from prospective artists, selected Mulligan, an experienced muralist who previously worked for Walt Disney Co. and whose work is on display in various California cities.
Somerton represents Mulligan's first mural project in Arizona, and he describes the experience of working there as gratifying. “It's a beautiful community, and the people are very warm.”
Apart from depicting slices of life of the mural, he added, his intent is to show the diversity of the community.
“We have a variety of nationalities. We may have a Latino baker painted (in the mural) at Elvira's, but the idea is to celebrate diversity.”
He praised the RCBH for its initiative in financing the project. “It is a testament to the love that it has for the community and its vision in making an investment that, I'm sure, will pay many dividends.
“It's rare to see that these days. Money goes for so many things, so to put it into the arts, and in something that is going to create identity, is great.”