“Public Art” on the Lemon Street Overpass; Are The Inmates Running The Asylum?

No, that’s not just crazy talk.

I was just sent the next Public Art Commission’s agenda in which City Staff is proposing that over $100,000 be spent “restoring” those dubious murals that adorn the Lemon Street pedestrian overpass. Here’s the text of the staff report:

Staff Recommendation for Public Art

After reviewing reports and treatment proposals from contracted professional art historians and conservators, staff has a recommendation for how to proceed with the Lemon Park Murals.  The goal of this recommendation is to make progress on the restoration of these important historical pieces of public art in a way that is fiscally responsible and takes into account the directive of the Public Art Committee to continually produce new works while maintaining the City’s rich existing collection.  We therefore propose that restoration take place over 5 years.  The proposed preliminary plan is as follows:

Year One:

Fall, 2010

Work with the Public Art Committee to revise the list of potential locations for new/restored work to be produced over the next 5 years.

Spring, 2011

Restore “Zoot Suit Riots.” using the services of a professional mural restoration team.  The cleaning, consolidation of paint and coating layers, graffiti removal, reintegration (touch-ups) and protection is estimated to total $18,000.  “Zoot Suit Riots” is an ideal starting place for mural restoration because the historical significance of the subject matter and its strong aesthetic appeal, and key location.

NOTE: Lemon Park and Maple Community Center renovation project will be under construction in the period beginning between summer – fall 2011.  The construction period is estimated at 9 months.  The start date for construction will be pending Lemon Park Committee review/recommendation, although it is likely to start in the fall of 2011, to avoid disrupting summer youth programs at the park.

Spring – Summer (production), 2011

Neighborhood youth will be recruited (coordinated with City summer youth programs at Maple Center) to design and execute a new mural that expresses the themes of cultural pride and community solidarity originally intended by the mural entitled “Fullerton.”  The existing mural, which is much degraded and heavily vandalized, will be thoroughly documented and covered with a protective varnish, then painted over.  The new mural will be processed through the standard application and review procedure by the Public Art Committee. It will be produced by neighborhood teens under the supervision of a professional artist and with input from the Lemon Park Ad Hoc Advisory Committee, and will take its place thematically and visually in the suite of paintings that makes up the entire park.

Fall, 2011
The Public Art Committee will oversee the production of a new, permanent public art piece at the main stage in the downtown plaza.

Year Two:


Restoration of “The Virgin of Guadalupe” and “Girl with Car. Estimated cost (combined) of $32,000.

Based on progress on the Transportation Center Master Plan, we will install a new piece of public art in the pedestrian corridor between Spadra restaurant and the bus depot.  Suggestions for this area include three-dimensional awning type installations that invite access to the transportation center and visually expand the downtown and event area south of Commonwealth.

Year Three:


Restore “Calle Elm” and “Come Back Again” by a professional mural restoration team. Combined cost of $24,640

Produce a new piece based on Public Art Committee recommendations

Year  Four:

Restore “La Adelita” and “Cross with Crown of Thorns.” Estimate (combined) cost of $26,000

Produce a new piece based on Public Art Committee recommendations.

Year Five:


After four years of restoration we will have some idea how the Lemon/Maple murals are faring and how the new mural produced in year one has been received by the community.  With this experience the Committee can develop recommendations for “Brown Car.”  This mural has been vandalized numerous times and sustained considerable additional damage since the November, 2008 preliminary report.  Based on the current rate of destructive activity, staff does not believe that the estimated $21,000 required for a thorough restoration would be fiscally responsible.  Two possibilities present themselves:  we could invest in moderate restoration and additional anti graffiti coating to keep the mural intact for as long as possible despite what seems to be relentless vandalism.  Or we could document the piece, cover it, and create a new mural under the direction of a professional artist and with the input of community groups such as the Lemon Park Ad Hoc Advisory Committee.  Both options present obstacles and opportunities and it is hoped that our experience restoring the other pieces of the original suite over the preceding 4 years will equip us to make a wise choice in 2015.

Note:  The murals “The Town I Live In”  “Niños del Mundo” and “La Mujer Latina” are in relatively good condition at this time and are not included in this 5-year restoration plan.  They will be maintained as needed (graffiti removed, coatings restored, etc.)

Public Art Committee Agenda
July 26, 2010

These paintings have been the source of some controversy for quite some time. Critics question the gang references as well as the deterioration and gang graffiti they seem to invite. Others doubt the artistic value.

Although some folks in the community have suddenly taken a proprietary interest in the murals, this interest doesn’t seem to extend to actually paying to clean them up.

In 1995 the restoration of the Kassler Mural on the side of the Plummer Auditorium only cost about $25,000 – of which half was made up of a matching Redevelopment grant. Hundreds upon hundreds of volunteer hours were spent stripping and cleaning that work of art. That participation proved the value to the community.

So the question is: who really wants to “restore” the Lemon Bridge murals, and what are they willing to pay for it?

15 Replies to ““Public Art” on the Lemon Street Overpass; Are The Inmates Running The Asylum?”

  1. Tax dollars to PROTECT and MAINTAIN “art” that reflects what MANY feel is Fullerton’s gangbanger lifestyle? On the heels of another drive by shooting that left a 17-year old dead? Are you serious? How about protecting the other “art” that gets painted around town? How about giant FTT signs at the City limits? Wake me up when City Hall gets cleaned up!

  2. I’m wondering why the graffiti isn’t just as authentic a popular artistic expression as what is supposed to be art.

    Just sayin.’

  3. Good post. City finances are a total disaster and somebody wants to elevate this to some sort of priority.

    Looks like we’ve got a campaign issue!

  4. I think this needs to be designated as a “historical district”. That way Fullerton Heritage Group can be involved cause they always know what’s best and we can also have the Planning Commission put in more rules about how this can be preserved. That should get the price up to at least $500,000. At that price we can’t resist to preserve it.

  5. The $100,000 proposal should be rejected and all those on city staff who participated in developing and approving the proposal should be fired, at the same City Council meeting.

  6. if I remember correctly, a local artist with the last name Reeder, desperate for money to fund his graduate studies, took on the original mural project that required involving fullerton’s local gang bangers so to prove to that productivity may arise from the unlikely persons and places, told me he did most of the work while the gang bangers flicked paint onto passing cars or hapless pedestrians. the continued vandalism of these murals may just be their karma

    1. That is a blatant lie. Your pal Reeder must of been talking about another project. David Whalen is the muralist and just because we MURALISTS grew up in the area does it give you the right to call us gang bangers. Get your story straight before you start hurling accusations.

  7. calm down. i love these murals and yes they should be restored. there’s no controversy about them. it’s car culture, not gang culture. just think of it as chicano nascar or monster trucks or something…

    It’s a five year plan which averages out to 20gs a year…less than the 1995 (not adjusted for inflation) one-time restoration of one mural cited.

    Tell me how much money was spent on the “Moco Seco” district up the street

    1. “Moco Seco”

      Dry booger? Too funny. But not relevant. Tens of millions have been wasted in DTF, but that’s not justification for doing anything.

  8. Yes, Joe! The dry booger! I just can’t call it the “Soco” as that would be too boring.

    I also can’t call Downtown Fullerton “DTF” as it confers a coolness onto it that it doesn’t deserve! (but that’s just a personal pet peeve of mine)

    C’mon, I’ll take all you FFFers to a Thee Midnighters concert one of these days! ‘The Town I Live In’ is Chicano Soul, not Cholo rap!

  9. hmmmm..$20,000 a mural!! nope!! i dont believe that one bit!!! thats just another way of hiding “spent money” the city used on the useless things theyve done to RUIN Downtown FUllerton, its a cover up , they spend the money then say it was spent on the restortations done on the lemon st. murals! but heres soemthing that tickles my funny bone!! if it takes so much time and effort on behalf of the city then answer this for me,cause If i’m not mistaken, i drove by one mid afternoon and i myself witnessed a little kid (i believe maybe a girl) and her FATHER (assumption) OR BROTHER, PAINTING and restoring one al by themselves. there was no group o f40 city workers or no hi tech painting machines and i really doubt this dad nad his forked out 20,000 buckaroos on this mural. don’t believe me then check it out for yourself. the mural with the mexican flag and FULLERTON ACROSS IT. its been repainted and fixed. IF I HAD A CAMERA I WOULD OF SNAPPED A PICTURE OF WHAT I WITNESSED. I CAN BET YOU THOSE 20,000 GRAND THAT THIS CHILD WILL ALWAYS REMEMBER THIS SPECIFIC TIME AND WILL RESPECT THIS ART SHE/HE RECREATED WITH HER FATHER/BROTHER. I BET YOU MY FANNY THAT THIS CHILD OR THEIR FRIENDS WONT GROW UP TO VANDALIZING WALLS IN FULLERTON.COMMUNITY AND HISTORY APPRECIATION WAS INSTALLED AT A YOUNG AGE. KUDDOS TO THIS GUY AND HIS CHILD!! 20,000 MY FANNY!! THAT WAS A SLAP IN THE CITIES FACE!!THANK YOU FOR DOING THAT!!

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