A drab concrete-block wall outside a country market is being transformed with a mural that captures nostalgia, whimsy and the natural beauty of the surrounding landscape.
Nationally recognized artist David Gordon has spent the past few weeks outside Broadway Market in Sonoma Valley detailing a project that started months ago at his Sebastopol studio.
It features the manager and two owners of the market beside a barbecue grill, a vintage firetruck and rolling vineyards under a full moon, a Valley of the Moon portrait winning praise even before its completion.
“It has been amazing,” said Ron Rodgers, who owns Broadway Market with his cousin, Dianne Gaudino. “People go out of their way to come in the office to say, thank you.”
Broadway Market financed the $46,500 beautification project with a 20-year loan from the Sonoma County Community Development Commission, $15,000 of which will be forgiven after five years. The project also will include two smaller paintings within arches at the market’s entrance.
The wall mural is hard to miss. It extends fully across the market’s north façade, 13 feet high and 60 feet long. It’s visible from Leveroni Road and Broadway, where the market is located at the busy intersection called Four Corners.
Gordon, 59, subtly worked four corners into the mural as a tribute to the designation. He spoke with the owners about the 40-year-old market, visited the surrounding area and researched the community and its longtime relationship with the market, known for its support of charitable efforts and the nearby Schell-Vista Fire Department.
Gordon has completed 60 murals across the country, from Independence Hall to downtown Sebastopol, highlighting a particular ambience from each location.
“This area is different than west (Sonoma) county or Philadelphia,” he said. “I feel you have to have the flora and landscape and narrative that’s valid for each location. This is pretty representative of Sonoma Valley.”
Local residents may recognize the late Mitch Mulas behind the wheel of the 1950s Ford fire truck. The longtime dairyman and Schell-Vista chief is sitting next to a Dalmatian, with a black bear waving from the passenger seat, a nod to Sonoma’s raising of the California Bear Flag.
A polar bear stands nearby, reminding old-timers of the days when Polar Bear Meats was part of Broadway Market. A grazing cow, directional winery signs and a meandering hen complete the scene.
“I got the chicken running away from the barbecue,” Gordon quipped. “Whimsy is important.”
Gordon painted the mural on 14 separate pieces of nonwoven polyester, a “very, very thin cloth” he transferred in sections to the market wall. The wall was first replastered and smoothed out to hide the grout lines.
Using Nova Color acrylic paints, Gordon has been working on-site to complete ambient light and detailing, like placing a cocktail glass in Rodgers’ hand. The muralist uses glazes and a UV-resistant sealant to complete the project.
He declines to estimate the hours he has devoted to the mural.
“I don’t want to say,” Gordon said. “It takes lots of work. These murals are labor intensive.”
Passersby shout their compliments when he’s working high atop his scaffolding, and they stop to watch and offer approval as he completes details at street level.
“It’s a special market. All different people come here, and no one feels left out,” he said.