Promoting Christianity on Public Property; Is it Kosher?

Update: These two murals are about to be put on the schedule as part of the $100,000 taxpayer-funded Lemon Park Mural restoration project, so now it’s time to ask the question again…

There has been some discussion over the past few years about what to do with the aging and in some cases repeatedly defaced murals that adorn the pedestrian bridge over Lemon Street.

When I went to take some pictures recently,  a new twist on the story occurred to me, and one which the ACLU-types don’t seem to have noticed: the promotion of Christianity on public property. On the east side support an actual Catholic shrine has emerged.

An interesting situation, to say the least, and one in which any artistic statement has obviously morphed into an obviously overt religious expression. Do these murals get a pass as a cultural expression that, say, a Christmas display in front of City Hall wouldn’t?

As always we welcome your thoughts on the subject.

Should the Lemon Park Murals Be Saved?

Neighbors around Lemon Park received a letter from the city inviting them to meetings on 5/31 and 6/28 to discuss the old Lemon Park Murals. The Public Art Committee would like feedback from the community…

1. Is there one or more mural out of the group you feel is/are absolutely essential to keep and restore?

2. Is there  one or more mural out of the group that you feel is/are absolutely essential to remove or replace?

3. Please rank the murals in order of importance to the park and the community. A number 1 would indicate the most important, 12 the least.

Come Back Again and La Adelita Fullerton Clasped Hands
Girl with Car Cross with Crown of Thorns
The Town I Live In and Brown Car
Virgin de Guadalupe La Mujer Latina
Zoot Suit Riots Calle Elm
Los Ninos Del Mundo

4. If we are able to produce a new mural in or around Lemon Park, what subjects/themes would you like to see depicted in the mural.

FFFF will be forwarding all comments to the Fullerton Public Art Committee, the Fullerton Museum Board and the Fullerton City Council.

“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?