Downtown mural gets thumbs-up from Grass Valley Planning Commission |

Downtown mural gets thumbs-up from Grass Valley Planning Commission

Miles Toland's mural, "New Dawn," was approved for the side of the Everhart Hotel in downtown Grass Valley.
Photo illustration courtesy Beth

There was nothing but love in the room Tuesday night during a special Grass Valley Planning Commission meeting to discuss a potential mural on the side of downtown’s Everhart Hotel.

“New Dawn” by artist Miles Toland will highlight mental health awareness and suicide prevention, and will be completely funded by hotel owner Beth Everhart Miller. Miller, working with Haven Caravelli of the Grass Valley Downtown Association, asked the city to fast-track approval of the five-story art project.

The mural features a faceless figure in profile, wearing a denim jacket and a brimmed hat, holding a feather as a mourning dove flies high above. The messages “We all get lost inside our minds” and “You are not alone. Be a survivor” circle the figure’s head, which fades into a Pelton water wheel.

The mural design previously won approval from the city’s Historical Commission and Design Review Committee, with some minor modifications requested. According to City Planner Lance Lowe, those changes included lightening the mural colors somewhat, and making lettering more legible.

Miller has said the hotel in Grass Valley’s downtown has historically been a haven for low-income tenants with mental health issues and cited former tenant Bob Gardiner, an artist who committed suicide there in 2005, as an inspiration for the mural.

“Bob was quite a character around town,” she said, reminiscing about his ability to reference Neanderthals and Cheerios in the same sentence.

The hotel owner noted that she had considered painting a mural on that blank wall for some time, but other proposed designs “didn’t grab my heart.” Miller detailed some of the evolution of the design, giving kudos to Toland for getting on the “roller coaster ride” with her.

“I could drive up to this every day and have it bless my heart,” she said of the end result.

This approval process is the third go-round for Caravelli, who has shepherded two other murals in Grass Valley to completion in the last few years.

“I know you have to look at this from the planning aspect … but art is not black or white,” Caravelli said.

“Last week, I was ready to throw my hands up,” she admitted. “It was too much work.”

But after she put a request for support out on social media, she said, she was overwhelmed by the messages she received.

“This mural is really special,” Caravelli said. “If this changes one person’s perspective, we have done something right.”

Connecting community

The design, agreed Toland, has already created a lot of important conversation in the community.

“It’s brought out a lot of stories, created a lot of connection already,” he said. “This is a message that is often overlooked or shied away from. … We all go through tough times. This mural is intended to bring resilience to people.”

A number of people in the audience spoke in support of the mural, many touching on the importance of the mental health message. Several urged that the project incorporate crisis line information in some way, possibly with an informational plaque.

Planning Commission member Yolanda Cookson admitted to not having been an “art person,” joking that her proudest achievement on City Council was the installation of garbage cans downtown. The first time Cookson grew passionate about a local art project was Justin Lovato’s mural on East Main Street, she said, adding, “It makes my heart so happy.”

Cookson noted she helped found the county’s first suicide prevention task force and said she was honored to be part of the planning commission that would approve a mural created by an artist of Toland’s caliber.

“This is a big deal,” she said. “How fortunate are we?”

Commission chairman Greg Bulanti told the audience that not a single negative letter had been received by city staff, before the commission voted unanimously to approve the mural.

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at

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