By Miriam Raftery
October 2, 2014 (Lemon Grove)—An elaborate five-panel mural depicting the history of Lemon Grove has been awarded the Governor’s Historic Preservation Award for 2014. A letter from the Governor’s office sent to the Lemon Grove Historical Society, which commissioned the project, called it “an exceptional example of historic preservation efforts on behalf of California’s cultural heritage.”
Artists Janne LaValle and Kathleen “Katy” Strzelecki (photo, below) took eight years to complete the mural, which measures 65 feet wide by 18 feet high. The mural depicts five stages in Lemon Grove history including Native American, Spanish, Mexican, pioneers and modern times.
“The mural is a signature project of the Lemon Grove Historical Society and a gift of public art to our city during a period of intensive redevelopment at midtown,” Helen Ofield, president of the Lemon Grove Historical Society, has said. “The key to our big win was the grassroots nature of the mural,” she told East County Magazine, also praising the City of Lemon Grove and supporters of the project.
Recipients of the award have been invited to Sacramento for an awards presentation on November 20th.
In a prior interview with East County Magazine, Strzelecki said the murals were created using special high resin paints and varnish with UV protection to prevent fading. She added that the project required extensive research at locations including the Barona Museum and the Lemon Grove Historical Scoiety.
The most recent panel includes the area’s diversity with elements representing agriculture, modern buildings and some that are gone, including an old movie theater and fire tower, as well as the iconic lemon statue.
The artists have also done other murals around town, including the Flag Day and Dog Park murals at La Mesa’s Walk of the Stars and murals at the Lemon Grove parsonage. Their work has also been exhibited at the San Diego Museum of Man.
Strzelecki said that the murals have not been marred by graffiti, though they do have anti-graffiti protection. In addition, she noted,“It’s a respect among artists. It’s street art!”
As for the murals that have now won California’s highest award for historic preservation, LaValle said of the mural art, “It’s a lovely way to bring history alive.”