Merced County Times Newspaper
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Times Photos by Andrew Miller

Local artists draw on concepts to beautify McNamara Park


McNamara Park is getting some much needed and much appreciated attention and care thanks to regional Heartland Arts Grant funding that has come into the community to assist local artists and local beautification efforts.

Local artists, Joel Aguilar (aka Gamut), Earvin Mendoza, and Patricia Pratt (of Kreepy Kawaii studio) have been hard at work giving new life to the park’s restroom walls and basketball court. While the heat and massive amount of space needed to be covered is quite the undertaking, in only a few weeks they have completed something very special.

The artwork is scheduled to be presented with a community pool party celebration this Saturday, June 29, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. There will be music, free treats thanks to Vanessas Ice Cream, a basketball raffle, and on top of that, the first 50 attendees will be able to swim for free.

“2024 has been a year for the books,” Mendoza to the Times. “Halfway through the year and I get to live one of my dreams of painting a basketball mural. My dad was a huge Lakers fan and decided to name me after Earvin Magic Johnson. Obviously, I couldn’t live up to the name as far as basketball goes, but I always loved playing it. Basketball was one of the things that kept me out of trouble as a kid. The asphalt was familiar to me but painting something this big was like no other. Joel and I woke up early every day to beat the heat. We started at 5:30 a.m. and just painted until the heat got unbearable. I think painting a mural on this side of Merced is important and a lot of the residents that live nearby thought the same. Every time we paint a mural, we get to know the community even more. We spend so much time there that we start talking to the regulars and end up making more friends. From all the murals we painted this year. This one is definitely my favorite. It’s undeniable even from the sky.”

Fellow contributor, artist Joel Aguilar, had this to say about the experience. “When I started getting into murals and seeing a lot of potential walls, I would notice basketball court murals and the idea of creating something on the floor rather than on the wall was so mind-blowing for me. I thought to myself about what kind of approach would be necessary to create something like a mural on the floor and what is the process or the journey to complete it. With that being said, I hoped to reach a point in my muralist career to propose a design for a basketball court or anything that would be a mural on the floor. The Heartland Grant the city had obtained was the catalyst to creating a basketball court mural. There were a few proposals that I submitted, and I am fortunate to have been selected for such a project.”

“My design is highly influenced with gradient flow transitions in a larger scale. Something that would not confuse players on the court but add more excitement to an old existing court. … Even though this project was somewhat of a last-minute decision, I definitely feel confident to perform on this scales or size when it comes to Murals. Like I said before, I’ve been waiting for an opportunity like this to arise and I had nothing but excitement for it. However, I was not too excited about the climate or weather, with the temperatures reaching 100.”

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