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Lake County artists, organizations collaborate on ‘Mural Trail’

The Lake County Rural Arts Initiative (LCRAI) teamed up with the Lake County Arts Council and the Lakeport Main Street Association in 2018 to help enhance the county’s economic viability by making it an arts and culture destination.

To this end, the “Mural Trail” was created, with all work done exclusively by local artists.

Colorful murals depicting the natural resources, culture and history of Lake County are appearing on buildings all around Clear Lake.

Violet Divine is an LCRAI board member and muralist. She and her husband, Michael, are co-owners of TenThousandVisions, where they sell their artwork. Both are responsible for many of the completed murals, as well as some of those still on the drawing board.

Divines paint the town

The Lakeport Community Center, 500 N. Main St., is one of those featuring exterior artwork by the Divines. This one, called “Interwoven,” has a Native American theme and showcases many aspects of local Pomo life.

Amazingly, both of the Divines are pretty much self-taught artists. She went to Computer Graphics and Graphic Design school for a couple of years before pursuing her doctorate in philosophy and becoming a college professor.

He, on the other hand, said, “I never went to school formally for art, but I did take a couple of classes at a community college to brush up on some things I didn’t learn on my own. Mostly, it’s just been trial and error.”

Together, the two have painted several Lake County murals, as well as others all over California, Mexico, Thailand and New Zealand.

They have also created many large-scale pieces for concerts and festivals all over the world, in heavily populated places like Melbourne, Australia and remote places like Giza Plateau in Egypt.

“Only the Brave,” which pays tribute to the brave men and women who fought the fires that have ravaged large parts of Lake County since 2015, was painted on the sides of both the Kelseyville Fire Protection District building at 4020 Main St. and the Lakeport Fire Department, 445 N. Main St.

The murals, a collaboration by designer Ben vanSteenbaugh and muralist Jeanne Jesse, depict firefighters with hoses in a standoff with a fire breathing dragon.

Another mural, designed by vanSteenbaugh and painted by the Divines, is located at 60 3rd St. near Library Park in Lakeport and illustrates a Pan Am Clipper landing on Clear Lake in 1945. The mural is so realistic one almost expects the plane to make landfall any minute.

On 5th and Main streets in Lakeport is a mural with a Native American theme. Designed and painted by the Divines, it showcases many aspects of local Pomo life.

Murals are a different animal

Gloria De La Cruz was commissioned by the Lake County Redevelopment Agency in 2008 for their beautification efforts along the Highway 20 corridor.

Since then, she has painted numerous murals locally, including “Clear Lake Sunset” at 290 N. Main St. in Lakeport, which was commissioned by the Lakeport Main Street Association. She also added her art to a wine cave inside the Cache Creek Vineyards Tasting Room.

Ten years ago she opened Catfish Coffeehouse at 14624 Lakeshore Dr. in Clearlake and said one of her all-time favorite murals is one she did for the inside the business.

The six panels of her “Wildlife” mural on the corner of 3rd and Main streets in Lakeport showcase several eye-catching renditions of the area’s beautiful, feathered creatures.

Painting a mural is a major undertaking that usually starts with a few preliminary sketches to solidify the idea and decide how the image is going to flow.

“Muraling is an entirely different animal than canvas painting,” Violet Divine said. “The scale of it requires an entirely different set of skills because you, as the artist, are dwarfed by the image you are making.”

In order to maintain the right proportions, the design is first sketched onto the building. Depending on the size of the wall, sometimes a projector is used to get an outline of major shapes. If the wall is too big for the projector to do in more than two or three sections, the artist will grid the wall.

Local creatives stay busy

Robert Minuzzo began his art career by selling artwork at the first Sausalito Art Festival and was later hired by the Hearst Family to restore an exterior theme painting on the walls of a lodge within their private retreat near Mount Shasta.

While living in Napa, he helped manage a teen mural project at a high school that was designed to discourage smoking. A few years later he was hired to create a 10x40-foot mural for a residential wall in St. Helena.

Minuzzo said his biggest artistic achievement has been “my ability to sustain a living by doing what I love and selling over 350 works of art in 40 years.”

His mural of a vintage boat towing happy water skiers across Clear Lake can be found on the side of Lakeport City Hall, 225 Park St.

In Clearlake, the Divines have been exceptionally busy, with four completed murals and two more under construction.

“We chose an exaggerated perspective for several of them, featuring small people with very large representations of local insects and bass fish,” Violet Divine said.

The first, “Bass Relief,” is located at Redbud Park, 4700 Golf Ave. at the corner of Lakeshore Drive.

Two others, “Dragons Over Clearlake” and “Wistful” are both located at Austin Park, 14077 Lakeshore Drive.

"The Sky High Seas," a brightly colored scene of deep-sea creatures floating in the sky and clouds is on the exterior of Lakeside Herbal Solutions, 4345 Mullen Ave.

More murals, artwork to come

Coming soon is an Art Deco-inspired scene of various disaster preparedness aspects from the county-wide campaign for public awareness at North Coast Opportunities, 14832 Lakeshore Drive.

For this particular project, the Divines are offering internships for talented young artists from around the county who will be invited to assist with both the larger mural at the NCO building and smaller panels with the same theme to be placed around the county.

Art teachers and students interested in either this or future projects should contact the Divines at lcrai.org.

The six-panel facade of the newly renovated Hope Rising building at 3400 Emerson St. will soon feature a design based on the whole life cycle of the dragon fly. Completion is expected by early spring.

In addition to murals, several large public art projects are also underway in Clearlake.

Two of the initial four bass sculptures have been created by local sculptor Diego Harris, local metal and glass artist Judson Eden and chainsaw carver Mark Culp. The sculptures are located in the newly constructed beach boardwalk, across from Austin Park.

The next two bass sculptures are being done by the Divines and, like many of their other projects, is expected to be completed by spring in a yet-to-be determined park location.

Wood used to form the fish itself is from a tree cut down during the Valley fire.

“I love the idea of bringing beauty to different places and I think Lake County is a really beautiful but overlooked part of California,” Michael Divine said. “It’s great to be able to share my work with an appreciative audience and I hope it inspires others who live and visit Lake County.”

According to Violet Divine, the City of Lakeport, in conjunction with the Main Street Association and LCRAI, have some big plans brewing for a major murals and installations expansion project in the next year or two.

“It’s a good time for the arts in Lake County,” she said, “as there is a ton of excitement and momentum for making Lake County an arts destination.”

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