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Westside mural celebrates life, diversity
westside mural
Artist Hector Covarrubias stands in front of the mural he recently painted at 333 Lander Ave. in Turlock (ANGELINA MARTIN/The Journal).

Drivers traveling into town along Lander Avenue now have a splash of color and culture to greet them thanks to a new mural completed this week.

Turlock residents Karina Franco and Joey Garcia wanted to provide some positivity on the westside of town where they both grew up, and after some brainstorming decided that public art could have the greatest impact. Garcia owns the property at 333 Lander Ave., which formerly housed Amaro’s Turlock Meat Services, and he and Franco knew that the now-vacant building’s wall would serve as the perfect canvas for a mural.

“We really wanted to bring the aspect of art to children on the westside who may not go to museums or haven’t been exposed to that yet,” Franco said. “Because we grew up in the neighborhood, I feel like we were really able to bring the area to life through art that’s truly representative of the residents who live here.”

Franco and Garcia scoured the area for an artist who could bring their vision to life, speaking with muralists from larger metropolitan areas like the Bay Area. Ultimately, they decided Tracy artist Hector Covarrubias was the man for the job.

“Our Valley is so low on resources in terms of bringing art here and being able to highlight this type of work, so it was a perfect opportunity to highlight him and bring him on board,” Franco said. “It’s a large wall, which allows him to be able to express his own pieces of art while representing the westside.”

The project took about two weeks and pictures a vibrant display of Latino culture, though Covarrubias has yet to add the finishing touch: cursive script reading “Turlock” across the painting. Roses and Monarch butterflies adorn the mural, adding beauty to portraits of a man working in a field, a group wearing sombreros and a smiling young girl.

Each aspect of the mural serves a purpose, Franco explained.

“Here in the Central Valley, we have such a high number of people who work in the fields but aren’t usually represented, so we wanted to show that in the mural,” she said. “The little girl, to me, really represents the 40 percent Latino population in the neighborhood, and we wanted to be able to bring those kids to life through art and show them that somebody in their neighborhood cares about them.”

The bright colors, flowers and butterflies are meant to symbolize life, she added — something that every Turlock resident can appreciate.

“Wherever you come from, you’ll be able to see a representation of yourself in that,” Franco said.

The mural is part of a recent effort by business owners to bring public art to town. Downtown bars The Grand Cru and The Udder Place are both looking to add murals to their walls, and Franco said she’s been in contact with the bars’ owner Jerry Powell in order to make it happen. A public unveiling and celebration of Covarrubias’ mural is set to take place soon, though the exact date is yet to be determined.

“My hope is that we continue this effort and that it becomes more of an art movement within our city,” Franco said. “It doesn’t have to be this one-time thing. The westside is very impacted by negative things, so the idea of injecting more positivity in this way is a great thing for us.”