Grass Valley woman’s vision of a mural nets her 2017 Citizen of the Year |

Grass Valley woman’s vision of a mural nets her 2017 Citizen of the Year

Grass Valley Citizen of the Year Haven Caravelli presents a mural concept by artist Justin Lovato from inside of her downtown Grass Valley pilates studio earlier this year. Caravelli's initial choice for mural artist, Mars 1, dropped out of the running when he was unable to produce a concept.
Elias Funez/

The woman behind Grass Valley’s newest downtown mural has received the 2017 Citizen of the Year award from the Grass Valley Downtown Association.

Haven Caravelli graciously accepted a plaque and applause at the annual Christmas Holiday Mixer held at Grass Valley Courtyard Suites Wednesday evening.

Last spring, Caravelli presented the concept for a 20-foot by 60-foot mural that was painted this summer on a blank wall at the corner of Mill and East Main Streets. She recruited Sacramento native and former Grass Valley resident Justin Lovato to design and paint the contemporary mural, which was criticized by some people because it didn’t pay homage to the county’s mining history.

Undeterred, Caravelli pressed on and declared it was time to “look forward toward the next generation.” The mural features the Yuba River, wildflowers and forestland, with the name “Grass Valley” emblazoned in ornate lettering. The art was funded by the Alexander Chambers Gallery, an artist collective with a storefront in Nevada City.

The 38-year-old Caravelli’s fortitude and resolve was integral to the mural’s approval and completion. Over the course of several months, she collected hundreds of signatures in support of the project, and met with and/or obtained the blessings of the Grass Valley Historical Society, Planning Commission, Development Review Committee and City Council.

The Citizen of the Year award recognizes contributions to the City of Grass Valley, the downtown and the community at large. An inscription on the plaque presented to Caravelli called her a “warrior for supporting new mural art to beautify downtown.”

“Haven’s ability to work with the city, property owner, downtown merchants and the citizens is amazing,” said Grass Valley Downtown Association Board Chair and city council member Lisa Swarthout. “There are a lot of moving parts in doing a project like this and she worked through all of them with the determination that this project would happen.”

Carvelli’s local roots run deep. She was born and raised in Nevada County, and she was a contestant in the Miss Nevada County Fair Queen pageant as a teenager. Her father, Ric Caravelli, portrays Santa Claus at local Christmas events. Her mother, Lani Lott, served as executive director of the downtown association from 1990 to 1996 and won the 1996 Citizen of the Year award.

Caravelli is a downtown association member, downtown association promotions committee chair, and will ascend to the Grass Valley Downtown Association Board Chair position next year. She owns and operates the Center of Movement Pilates and Functional Fitness studio in downtown Grass Valley, just a few doors down Main Street from the mural she spearheaded. She has loved dancing since she was 2-years-old, and performed with several dance studios before opening her own studio in 2006. She has earned certifications in a variety of physical training and dance disciplines, and this past summer she was one of 10 local celebrities competing in Dancing With Our Stars.

Caravelli said she plans to propose other public art projects that she hopes will lure more art-lovers and others from all over the world to downtown Grass Valley and its businesses. She said she is working with three other artists to design and paint two new murals in different locations downtown.

“That is the future,” said Caravelli. “It will bring more people into retail. Art creates a community.”

Lorraine Jewett is a freelance writer who lives in Nevada County. She can be reached at

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