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Del Oro mural to be unveiled this week

The new design proposed for the backside of the Del Oro Theatre in downtown Grass Valley will be unveiled at a fundraiser kickoff next week.

Santa Cruz artist John Pugh said his updated design still includes a scene from a gold mine shaft and miners, but incorporates a heart – picking up a beloved theme that was in the “Heart of the Gold Industry” mural that was painted over when cinema owners Michael and Barbara Getz remodeled the historic theater in 2004.

“I think the solution is intriguing,” said Pugh, who would not offer more details before next week’s event. “My goal is to create something that gives a sense of place of Grass Valley, incorporating historical characteristics of the area.”



Howard Levine, executive director of the Downtown Grass Valley Association, was enthusiastic about the new version.

“John has come up with a new idea that will result in a mural the whole community will be proud of. We are lucky to have an artist of John’s stature as the creative force behind this project,” Levine said.




The previous mural – a simple, brown-and-tan drawing of two gold miners working inside a huge heart – could be seen easily from the Golden Center Freeway. It marked travelers’ arrival in Grass Valley for 27 years.

Pugh’s preliminary design for that mural’s replacement, published in The Union in January 2006, had been “a rough sketch (submitted) for a competition,” Pugh said Friday. “It wasn’t meant to be a final sketch, but an idea to be refined.”

Many readers criticized that sketch, which also depicted a scene from a gold mine shaft. Pugh said the printed image was dark and failed to show much of the detail he had intended.

His latest design retains his inspiration that came from the area’s history of hard rock mining and the Empire Mine, Pugh said; the Empire was the richest gold mine in California and the third-richest in the nation. The mural’s images include miners riding down a mine shaft in a skiff past side drifts.

“The idea of this underground world seemed like an intriguing thing to explore,” Pugh said. “But it doesn’t all stay underground.”

International career

Pugh, 49, has been a mural artist for 29 years. He has painted more than 250 pieces, mostly in the United States, but also in Canada, New Zealand, Scotland and Taiwan.

In his early career, he came to concentrate on the trompe l’oeil – French for “trick the eye” – style of painting. It allows the artist to create the illusion of a three-dimensional image on a two-dimensional surface.

A mural commissioned by the city’s redevelopment agency in Merced, and a preliminary sketch of a mural being painted on a commercial building in Honolulu offer good examples of how Pugh weaves together images of local history, culture and modern activities into the mural, he said.

Pugh will receive an estimated $60,000 commission for the work, to be funded entirely by donations. The Getzes have raised at least $10,000 so far.

The unveiling at 5:30 p.m. Thursday – on the big screen inside the Del Oro on Mill Street – will raise more funds (see box for information).

To contact City Editor Trina Kleist, e-mail trinak@theunion .com or call 477-4230.

WHAT: Fundraiser for the Del Oro Theatre mural

WHEN: 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday

WHERE: Del Oro Theatre, 165 Mill St., Grass Valley

WHO: Mural artist John Pugh will unveil his new mural design, explain his latest techniques in the mural process and give a short slide show of other murals he has painted.

ADMISSION: Tickets cost $30 per person, $50 per couple and include light appetizers, music and door prizes. Tickets are available at the Book Seller and the Grass Valley Downtown Association. Call 272-8315; Visa and Mastercard are accepted.

INFORMATION: To see more about John Pugh and his murals, go to http://www.artofjohnpugh.com


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