Painting the town |

Painting the town

At first assailed or embraced by Grass Valley residents, the Del Oro mural debate has quieted, and artist John Pugh is busy with the project in his Truckee studio.

“I’m going to create a great mural,” Pugh said. “It’s about the heritage and substance of the area, not just the past.”

The nationally known artist’s design will wrap around the back and side walls of the city’s historic Del Oro Theatre. It takes the place of the old mural of miners working inside of a heart, which adorned the back wall for 27 years before it faded.

The new mural integrates the area’s mining history, recent commitment to Yuba River ecology and the strong sense of community here, Pugh said.

The dominant features will be miners on an old-fashioned skip while the river runs beside them, as well as dramatic lighting.

“Mining is Grass Valley’s history whether some people like that or not,” he said. “The miners will be dropping down to a new level of shifting environmental consciousness. It’s the story of Grass Valley.”

City officials are enthusiastic.

“I think it’s going to be a great asset to the city,” said Mayor Mark Johnson. “Many great art works are controversial, but I think we’ve worked through the controversial part of this now. When it’s lit, it’s going to be something.”

The mural, preparation of the walls and the lighting will cost $70,000, according to Howard Levine, executive director of the Grass Valley Downtown Association.

“We’ve got about $42,000 in donations and $8,500 in pledges,” Levine said.

Working with three assistants, Pugh will complete about 70 percent of the project in his studio on canvas strips before coming to Grass Valley for the final touches later this summer. He hopes to finish in early October.

First he will prepare the two walls with a siding material and begin pasting the strips up on the wall with an acrylic gel. Eventually, the wall, strips and gel integrate to form the mural, after which Pugh and his staff will paint the finishing touches.

“It’s the only way to go” with murals, Pugh said. When finished, the art work will be 35 feet high on both walls, with a 30-foot wide area across the back and a 25-foot wide portion on the side wall facing Neal Street.

The Grass Valley project comes on the heels of Pugh’s latest mural for a commercial building in Honolulu, Hawaii, which depicts a huge breaking wave and the island’s cultural history.

To contact Senior Staff Writer Dave Moller, e-mail or call 477-4237.

n Donations for the mural can be

sent to: Del Oro Mural Fund

P.O. Box 1986,

Grass Valley, CA 95945

n The ID number for a tax deduction is 94-3330846

n Pugh’s other murals can be seen at

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Grass Valley and Nevada County make The Union’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.


Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User