By Kit-Bacon Gressitt
New mural brings smiles to Civita community
Public art has a long and varied history in the San Diego region. Ancient petroglyphs; Depression-era artworks and architecture; even a sculpture at Scripps Research Institute, described by some as resembling dinosaur excrement — they have all done what public artworks are intended to do. They engage the public in a distinct place, the people who live and work and play there. The developers of Civita, a mixed-use urban village in Mission Valley, are anticipating that same public engagement with a new mural created by Encinitas artist Kevin Anderson.
“We like doing things that cause people to pause and smile,” explained Marco Sessa, a senior vice president of Civita’s developer Sudberry Properties. “Civita Park has a number of statues. We’re actually putting in bronze plaques at various locations in our sidewalks that in some cases have quotes from people or dance moves — little whimsical things that make a place a little more unique. In new construction, we want to create that sense of place and we believe that a little bit of art helps with character uniqueness and provides for intangible placemaking.”
Placemaking, the design and creation of public spaces and their connections to people, relies heavily on the creative arts, whether a kinetic sculpture like the bronze “Paparazzi Dogs” in Civita or a public piano begging to be played in a New York City park.
“Public art connects people to a location,” Sessa said. “From a community development standpoint, that’s part of why we think it’s important, to differentiate yourself from other run-of-the-mill locations. It promotes community; it promotes pride in where you live.”
That pride of place is evident in Anderson’s mural. Walk the 72-foot painting, located in the pedestrian tunnel in Civita Park, and you’ll experience a visual catalogue of the San Diego region’s landscapes, heritage, people, flora and fauna. The mural’s artfully blended vignettes depict the many diverse things that define the county — and Anderson’s love of them.
“A lot of scenes in this mural are inland,” Anderson said. “I do a lot of murals around San Diego County. I go to the location, drive around, talk to people, do sketches. I did one in El Cajon, then one in La Mesa. My parents live in Julian, so I drive there a lot. That’s what’s on this mural. It starts out in Borrego, in the east, and then it goes to Palomar and Julian and Ramona, then Poway, Rancho Bernardo, San Pasqual Valley. The other side starts at San Diego State and goes to Torrey Pines. It’s kind of a culmination of the places I’m used to painting.”
Anderson has been traveling and painting San Diego scenes for decades. With a degree in art and a background in illustration, he worked for an artist in Encinitas for a couple years and then with some mural groups. He’s painted murals in a grand variety of settings, from Las Vegas casinos to a San Diego military base.
“It’s interesting, when I first did the Navy mural in Coronado,” Anderson recalled, “there were a lot of young recruits who couldn’t leave the base, and they wanted to show them cool places in San Diego. I did a montage scene, and I imagine that was 25 years ago, and here I am doing the same thing but more advanced —similar, but going further than I’ve ever gone before.
“This is going to be one of my best,” Anderson continued. “And I’ve met so many people. When I first started working on the [Civita] mural, I wondered what kind of people lived there. All these people started coming by. Now I’m calling people by name. I put a guy’s son in the painting. Another couple came by and needed to have their little dog in there. … I’ve got an area in the mural where I let the community — whoever came that day — where I allowed people to bring their kids up and do a little painting that the parents signed and dated. It’s really cool looking!”
Cool looking, and the mural is indeed causing people to pause, to take in the art, and to react to it with a smile — and admiration.
“The cool thing about art is there’s so much variety — even architecture,” Anderson said. “I really love the fact that more big businesses and corporations are doing murals. When you see them, you just can’t stop looking at them. When you see public art, it brings your attention to that art, that it is art, that it was created by an artist. It’s all important.”
In fact, public art is so important that a young girl viewing the mural took a moment to give it the perfect name. “The Magic Tunnel,” she called it.
The public is invited to visit Civita to enjoy the mural, located at the top of the stairs at the north end of Civita Park, in the pedestrian tunnel that runs under Via Alta.
Learn more about Kevin Anderson and his artwork at KevinAndersonPaintings.com.
— Kit-Bacon Gressitt formerly wrote for the North County Times. She now writes for her site ExcuseMeImWriting.com and she is the publisher and an editor of WritersResist.com. She also hosts Fallbrook Library’s monthly Writers Read author series and open mic. Reach her at email@example.com.