Aromas, located in Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Juan Benito counties, have lately become a hotbed of creative spirit and ingenuity. In the last dozen years, Aromas has created a welcoming art-decorated village center.
Following Monterey County’s refurbishment of the village park, the Aromas Library murals were designed by Joyce Oroz and painted by Aromas Hills Artisans. In 2017 the Aromas Hills Artisan members and Aromas residents, under the leadership of Tina Baine, created and installed the beautiful wooden “Big Fish” structure in the park.
Other art work created and sponsored by the Aromas Hills Artisans can be found on the old Marshall’s Service wall, The Old Firehouse Market building, The “Chicken” utility box by the Town Square Park and additional murals at Aromas School gardens.
The latest project inspired by Leslie Austin, and led by Linda Bjornson, Joyce Oroz, Rachel and Jessica Wohlander, Cindy Couling, Charlene McKowen plus Anzar High School art instructor Emily Scettrini decided in December 2018 that the dirty, graffiti-covered bridge leading into Aromas needed an upgrade.
The bridge spans the Pajaro River, which in 2009 was declared one of the ten most polluted rivers in California. The steelhead trout had abandoned it. But fortunately, now that restoration work is going on in the river, the trout have returned.
The committee decided it wanted to celebrate the return of the steelhead trout and asked Linda Bjornson, Cindy Couling, and Joyce Oroz to design the mural.
“I went into this kicking and screaming but now I’m proud as punch,” said Oroz.
Since the bridge was situated in Santa Cruz County, a permit needed to be obtained from the S. C. County government. AHA members Rachel Wohlander and Jessica Wohlander of the non-profit, “Terra Cultura” started the process, obtained the permit as well as the fundraising and saw it through to the finish.
Then the real fun began. Terra Cultura received a grant from the Aromas Eagles to get the project rolling. Some individuals asked to dedicate a fish in honor or in memory of a loved one. This idea caught on quickly and soon all of the fish were commemorating loved ones. Some from the past, present and future.
The 525-foot long bridge is 28” high. It had to be cleaned and primed first, and then a coat of cobalt blue was applied. Then each fish was drawn from a stencil and painted solid white.
The volunteer painters all painted with a color palette of five colors plus black for the sake of continuity. Eighteen paint kits composed of a pencil, six jars of Nova Mural Paint, three paintbrushes, a jug of water and paper towels were supplied every Sunday to each round of 18 volunteer painters.
The painting was done from 9:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. by 18 people at a time starting in May and completed in August. One of the main goals was to include the Anzar High School Advanced Art students. It took so long to get the permit that there was a frantic effort to clean, prime and apply the blue background in time. The students came twice on their last week of school and then graduated!
The painters included kids as young as 8 (working with an adult) and some individuals as old as 80! The kids worked on their knees while the older painters sat on buckets. One fish was painted by a young girl and her grandparents.
Some people designed and painted two or three fish but most people only painted one. Each fish is 42” long, swimming toward a “Welcome to Aromas” sign painted by David Stowell.
Because of traffic over the bridge, the painting was done on Sunday mornings when it was hoped there would be less traffic and no gravel trucks. Each individual was required to wear a safety vest, compliments of Granite Rock.
There were no gravel trucks on Sunday morning but there were some fast automobiles. Rachel and Jessica set out cones and barriers provided by the Aromas Day Committee. Painting on the bridge was completed just in time to return the barricades for Aromas Day.
“It turned into a real community project with young and old participating,” said Linda Bjornson, former president of the Aromas Hills Artisans. “Aromas Hills Artisans, Terra Cultura, and Anzar High School art students added to the mix made it a fun event.”
On Sunday, September 22, at 9:30 a.m. there will be a Bridge Mural Celebration to which the community is invited. Please come by, stroll the bridge and admire the lovely steelhead trout “swimming” on the Aromas Bridge.