Five-story mural proposed for Everhart Hotel in downtown Grass Valley
A mural that would highlight mental health awareness and suicide prevention has been proposed for a blank wall of the Everhart Hotel in downtown Grass Valley.
The “New Dawn” mural is a passion project for hotel owner Beth Everhart Miller, who is working with muralist Miles Toland and Haven Caravelli of the Grass Valley Downtown Association.
The trio are working on a tight timeline, since Toland will be heading out of the area to work on other projects and is only available for a short window through late October. On Tuesday they presented the mural project to Grass Valley’s Historical Commission, as well as to the Development Review Committee, which approved moving it forward to the Planning Commission for an Oct. 2 hearing.
If the Planning Commission approves the mural, the project will go forward barring an appeal, City Planner Lance Lowe said. An appeal would send the project to the City Council.
Miller told the Design Review Committee her parents bought the hotel in Grass Valley’s historic downtown 48 years ago and noted it became a haven for low-income tenants with mental health issues in the 1980s after then-President Ronald Reagan shut down many mental health facilities.
In 2005, she said, tenant Bon Gardiner, an “incredible” artist who won an Oscar in his youth, committed suicide at the hotel. Gardiner, Miller noted, had long-standing ties to Grass Valley — his grandparents were A.D. Foote and Mary Hallock Foote. A.D. Foote was superintendent at the North Star Mine and the North Star House on mine property was designed by Julia Morgan for them. Foote installed the largest operating Pelton water wheel to that date at the mine, Miller said, adding the mural Toland designed incorporates a Pelton Wheel as a metaphor for the power of the mind.
The mural in its current incarnation 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 the water wheel.
Miller said she originally thought about using Mary Hallock Foote in the mural, but decided that she really wanted an “unknown” face.
“This could be anybody who is suffering,” she said.
Caravelli, who has been instrumental in shepherding two murals in Grass Valley to completion in the last few years, told the committee members that public art is creating a shift in downtowns across the country.
Caravelli referenced the fight to bring a psychedelic Grass Valley mural by Justin Lovato to Mill and East Main streets, adding, “At any given hour, people are taking photos in front of that mural. I see it on Instagram all the time. People travel here just to see that.”
The murals, Caravelli said, are a heartbeat bringing life back to downtown.
“I know art is in the eye of the beholder,” she said. “But everyone is in favor (of this one).”
Toland said he travels around the world — he was recently featured in the Smithsonian magazine for his work at the Beatles ashram in India — but told the committee members this mural stood out as something special.
In particular, he said, the meaning of the piece resonates.
“It reminds us we’re not alone through our mental hardships,” he said, explaining the figure represents “someone being introspective and working on themselves.”
Former council member Steve Enos asked for more of a public process for the design of the mural, suggesting it instead incorporate a Nisenan figure. He also denigrated the lettering on the mural, calling it “cute” but complaining it looked like Arabic.
“This is not Berkeley,” he said, warning the committee the mural is likely to face an appeal if approved.
The mural’s backers said they had considered a Nisenan figure at one point during the design conception. But Toland said he reconsidered after talking to local Nisenan leaders, including Shelly Covert.
“I don’t feel comfortable as a white boy painting their culture,” he said, adding that it would smack of cultural appropriation for someone of his ethnicity.
Several committee members expressed a concern with the legibility of the lettering, but after Caravelli invited the public to come view a Toland piece in her studio to see what it might actually look like, committee member Yolanda Cookson suggested she bring it to the upcoming Planning Commission meeting.
Cookson had high praise for the mural design and message, adding, “Come on people, this is amazing.”
Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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