Our goal is to use public arts to create a better community,” said Norm Knodt, president of Manteca Mural Society. “To date we’ve created 26 murals. The first mural in 2003, Crossroads, by Dave Gordon from Sebastopol, is at Yosemite Avenue and Main Street. This depicts Manteca in 1918. The most recent Gordon mural across from the library is dedicated to the local softball league.”
In 2007, the California Public Art & Mural Society held its annual symposium in Manteca. This attracted prominent speakers in the field and brought a lot of national attention to the mural project. That has made it easier to attract nationally famous artists.
Artist Gordon enjoys his relationship with the town – especially the event where they invite artists to do murals in two days. He said this led to four or five murals getting done and “it’s a real cool thing.” Local area artists also love the program—like Jessie Marinas, who was an engineer for more than 30 years in the Bay Area before retiring to Manteca.
“Moving to Manteca is a dream come true,” he said. “I never thought that this was a mural town. When I first came here, I was recuperating from spine surgery. Manteca found out about me and asked if I would do a mural for them.”
Marinas points with great pride at his mural across from the library. It is a story about the beginning of Manteca. It shows the founding father Joshua Cowell’s house, where the Bank of America now stands.
Terri Pasquini, a director of the Manteca Mural Society, painted the mural “Beginnings.” “It is dedicated to the creation of man story about the Yokut Indians indigenous to this area before the settlers arrived,” she explained. “Every evening, they would sit around the campfire and tell stories. The elder speaks of how in beginning times there were only animal people—no humans.
“They decided they wanted to create a human being. They all pooled their resources to create this being that stood upright,” Pasquini continued. “Red Tail Hawk wanted to give his keen eyesight. Deer wanted to give his stamina through his heart, lungs and spine. Coyote suggested that man have his paws. But no one concurred. Blue Bellied Lizard recommended that man have hands to dig for roots. But Lizard thought the being should be able to make rope and weave baskets”.
“Since there had to be unanimous agreement, the Great Spirit, in the form of Golden Eagle, said they should race to a large boulder. The first to put their hand imprint on the boulder would win. Coyote thought he could eat the lizard before the race. But the original lizard was able to reach a boulder first and imprint his hand before the Coyote could eat him.” “The legend is this is why we have five fingers on our hands,” smiled Pasquini.
By Gene Beley