By Jessica Johnson
Aptos residents may have a sense of deja vu as they see a new mural being painted on the abutment wall of the railroad bridge at Soquel Drive and Aptos Street. Muralist Arturo Thomae has been steadily and carefully working on this piece for several weeks. It was just last year that he completed work on another mural up the road, at the intersection of Soquel and Spreckels Drive.
Whereas last year’s project, known as the West Village Mural, featured local historic apple crates and labels, the current East Village Mural Project features a historic steam locomotive next to the old Aptos Train Station.
One of the key contributors is local realtor, businessman and third generation county resident Steven Allen of Allen Property Group. Not only has Allen contributed financially to both projects, he has also acted — along with project fundraiser Mary Russell — as the organizer.
Allen said the second project has gained momentum the first project was lacking, “Last year there were really only a handful of us. It was a much more difficult project.”
Other key community members have contributed their time as well. Local painter Hal Turner has long volunteered his time to graffiti abatement around town. For this mural project, Allen and Thomae turned to Turner to help clear the brush — and poison oak — from the wall.
“Hal started helping me clear the brush — and I had to stop because I got poison oak. He said ‘That’s OK, I don’t get it.” Then he sent me a note later, “Guess what? I got it,” Thomae recalled.
Turner also pressure-washed and primed the wall in preparation for the mural and has secured paint donations from Bill King of King’s Paint who carefully matches the paint color to match paint chips supplied by historical consultant John Hibble.
Thomae and Hibble, co-executive director of the Aptos Chamber of Commerce and curator of the Aptos History Museum, work together to ensure the historical accuracy of the project – from paint color to whether or not a certain building was around at that time.
“Hibble has provided the image of the train, the images for [the station] and the proper color. It’s great because I strive for accuracy,” said Thomae.
Thomae will be finishing the first half of the project in the coming days, and then prep will begin on the wall across the street. Conscious of the impact the project has on traffic, Thomae hired an engineer to determine the size and placement of traffic signs. Work can only take place during certain hours of the day, depending on traffic flow. If there is an accident on the freeway, for example, and traffic is impacted then he has to pack it up early.
“Can I thank everybody for their patience?” he asked, smiling.
By all appearances, Aptosians are appreciative of the work being done. As I stood with Thomae on the side of the road discussing the project, several people drove by and yelled out, “It’s beautiful!” and “Looks great!”
If you are interested, contributions to the project are being accepted. Contact Mary Russell for information at 831-661-5214.