Merced County Times Newspaper
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Merced leaders accept generous gift from public art advocates

Merced artist Monika Modest and Michael Modest, speak to the audience assembled at the Merced City Council meeting on Monday. At their side is Merced Mayor Mike Murphy, at right, and Assistant City Manager Stephanie Dietz.


Editor’s Note: This story updates a previous version published in the print version of the Merced County Times that incorrectly identified what the donation and matching city funds were going to be used for. While artist Monika Modest is working on a mosaic art project for the Merced Open Air Theater, the new funding is going toward restoration and upgrades of the facility to make it a viable venue for future concerts, theater performances and community events.  

Merced City Council leaders this week accepted a $25,000 donation from Michael and Monika Modest to help renovate and make facility improvements to the Merced Open Air Theater inside Applegate Park. They also approved matching funds from the city’s General Fund reserve. 

The M.O.A.T. — as it is known — is in need of lighting and structural improvements, as well as upgrades to its storage area, dressing rooms, and restroom. Community advocates want to see the structure return to its formal glory and become more of a viable venue for future concerts, theater performances and community events. 

“This is a very generous donation for the city of Merced,” Mayor Mike Murphy said, adding that the Modests have supported several public art displays across town in recent years. 

Monika Modest is also the lead artist on the Starry Night Community Mosaic project that aims to beautify the outside of the M.O.A.T. She serves on the city’s Arts and Culture Advisory Commission, and has been outspoken about creating new public art projects, as well as maintaining existing art displays. She is known for her colorful tile mosaics that adorn the walkway along the G Street Underpass and at Bob Hart Square. Hundreds of local residents have help paint the tiles and donated to beautification process.  

The Starry Night Mosaic is coming together at Applegate Park to inspire hope and solutions for those struggling on the streets of Merced, and to remember those homeless residents who have died. The Homeless Remembrance Memorial takes place every at the Open Air Theater on the Winter Solstice, Dec 21. This coming Saturday, the event starts at noon. 

“I feel really strongly that all of us need to engage,” Monika Modest said. “We all have so many different things to offer — from talent to dreams to hopes to skills … Engage yourself and contribute. Don’t just stand on the sidelines and hope things will change. It’s really up to everyone of us. We don’t have to do this alone. We can really make a difference. And I’ve been very lucky since we moved here 10 years ago that I’ve been able to initiate several large scale community projects, and the community has responded in a way that I never anticipated.”

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