Del Oro mural process marches on |

Del Oro mural process marches on

The concept of painting a new mural on the Del Oro was the result of the extensive refurbishment of the building during 2004.

On the east side of the building, there were cracks that had allowed water to penetrate the exterior, causing damage to the interior. In order to properly protect the building from further deterioration, the building needed to be professionally sealed and painted, resulting with the removal of the exterior mural. Additionally, a nonfunctioning exhaust stack was removed on the same east wall before the sealer and paint were applied.

Public comment was received at the Grass Valley Development Review Committee (DRC), the Planning Commission and the City Council in order for this work to occur. The process was approved and the new owners of the theater building were allowed to proceed with the painting project. The City Council created a committee to forge a plan, with the building owners concurrence, to replace the mural.

The recommendation by the City Council was that a committee be formed to include members of the City Council, Planning Commission, Historical Commission, the Grass Valley Downtown Association (GVDA), and the building owners. Their charge was to meet and establish a concept, hire an artist and raise the money for the project.

At the committee’s first meeting there was a consensus that the new blank wall provided an opportunity to reconsider the theme of the mural and to explore whether a new concept might be more appropriate for the community’s present and future. The committee felt that the GVDA was the ideal entity to coordinate the steps leading to the repainting of the mural. Howard Levine, executive director of the GVDA, traveled to the Global Mural Conference in 2004 to gather information about other communities that have mural programs, how they hire an artist and processes they use.

Selecting an artist can be a daunting task in itself. There are numerous mural artists with different styles and costs. A number of artists, local and non-local, have approached the GVDA to discuss concepts and to ask to be considered for the project. Selecting a theme is an exciting challenge. Although a theme has not yet been defined, the history of Grass Valley, its vibrant and varied community, its unique setting and its vision for the future, provide some obvious elements to be considered. Finally, raising the money will be a determining factor.

The process the Committee will be taking is:

Obtain information about how other communities have created public murals,

Develop ideas for a theme or general notion

Send out a request for proposals (RFP) based on that concept to mural artists who contact the GVDA or city.

Review the RFP’s and select up to five artists to be interviewed.

Select the artist the committee believes can create the best mural for the Del Oro and represent Grass Valley in a premiere way.

The artist and the committee will agree to a contract and the artist will create a maquette (small concept drawing). The maquette will be presented to the DRC, the Planning Commission and the City Council for comment and approval. The artist will hold at least two public information sessions for input and demonstration. The artist will then proceed with the painting and upon completion there will be a reception and dedication.

Although the mural is important to replace, a contract will not be put into place without 50 percent of the funds in the bank and 25 percent more pledged. The approximate mural size may be 75 feet by 30 feet, 2250 square feet at an elevation of 30 feet above the ground. The cost of a high quality mural of this size may run $40,000. Although there are challenges such as the elevated work space and the large format, the positive features of the Del Oro mural wall are the surface has just been renovated and the wall is an east-facing. It should hold color and paint for a longer time.

Anyone who is interested in this process, whether as an artist or as a contributor of funds or ideas, has many ways to participate; you may contact the GVDA (530 272 8315 or email at, or follow the city process (DRC, planning commission, city council meeting) or through the artist’s public information meetings.

Finally, we appreciate all comments. Art is a very important catalyst for public dialogue. We expect that this will not diminish.


Howard Levine is the executive director of the Grass Valley Downtown Association.

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