UC Merced Artist Makes Impact With Turlock Murals
New work to be unveiled with public event, Sept. 16
The Carnegie Arts Center has announced the start of the Turlock West Side Story Mural Project.
The project — funding by a recent grant from the Heartland Creative Corps — will produce two murals created for the city’s West Side neighborhood.
The murals will be designed and executed under the direction of local mural artist and UC Merced faculty member Richard Gomez. He has worked on numerous public art projects throughout California and abroad.
As a Central Valley native, Gomez has a local perspective on the needs and concerns of this region. Much of his work centers on the cultural traditions of the communities he engages through his art, addressing the need to, as Gomez states, “change rooted stereotypes and visual cliches of culture and identity of the traditionally marginalized.”
The first mural, “Chicano Downtown,” will be painted on an exterior wall of the building located on the 100 block of S. First Street. The design includes references to icons of Chicano culture and reflects the history of the neighborhood. Gomez’s family owned the Mexican Kitchen restaurant that at one time occupied the building the mural will appear on. His memories of family, neighborhood, and community have informed the mural’s design.
Gomez, along with two assistants, began work on the First Street mural on Aug. 29, and it will be completed in time for a free community celebration, hosted by Taqueria la Primera and the Carnegie Arts Center on Saturday, Sept. 16, from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. The event, to be held at the Taqueria (144 South First Street in Downtown Turlock), will include a car show, live music featuring Valley Wolf, and non-profit vendor and activity booths for the whole family.
The second mural will be painted inside the Carnegie Arts Center’s main exhibition gallery in January 2024 and will be featured in the retrospective exhibition of paintings by artist Richard Gomez that will be on view to the public at the CAC from Feb. 13 – May 18, 2024.
This mural will be executed in collaboration with students from Roselawn High School in Turlock. Youth participants will shape the content and design of the project under the direction of Gomez, who will guide them in finding their voice, conveying a message, and promoting positive change. Emphasis will be placed on mentoring through this process, building understanding about the power and responsibility of the arts to communicate effectively about community issues.
The CAC gallery featuring the mural will be open to the public free of charge during the painting process (January 2024) as part of the CAC’s “Project Space” exhibition series. This will allow the community to learn about the process and to engage with the artists and the students when they are working. The mural be a highlight in the exhibition of Gomez’s work; because much of the artists research and practice has centered on projects that build community engagement, represent underserved or marginalized groups, and promote positive social change, the mural will reflect the community-building aspect of the artist’s career. Following the exhibition, and comprehensive documentation, the mural will be painted over for the next art installation.
A free public reception celebrating the exhibition, the artists, and the youth participants will take place at the Carnegie Arts Center on Friday, Feb. 23, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Together, the two murals will represent positive and unique aspects of community life in the neighborhoods on Turlock’s West Side. As CAC Director Lisa McDermott has noted, “The community and history of the West Side are essential to the fabric of Turlock’s past, present and future. We are fortunate to be able to look back on Turlock through the artist’s childhood experiences and to look forward through the perspectives of our youth participants in what will be two impressive murals.”
Funding for the two murals in the Turlock West Side Story project came through a competitive grant process, funded by the California Arts Council’s California Creative Corps program, aimed at providing jobs and economic recovery for artists in a variety of disciplines. Locally, the grants are managed by the Heartland Creative Corps, a collaborative effort joining the Arts Councils of Merced, Stanislaus, and Tuolumne Counites, and administered by United Way of Merced County.
About the artist
Raised in Turlock, artist Richard Gomez received his BA in Studio Art, with a minor in Chicano Studies, from UC Santa Barbara (1999). He completed his MFA in Painting & Drawing from the Academy of Art University, San Francisco (2008). Since 2010 Gomez has been a continuing lecturer at UC Merced in the areas of Humanities & World Cultures and in the Global Arts Study Program. His work has been selected for exhibitions throughout the Central Valley and beyond.
Locally, Gomez has completed community-engaged mural projects in Livingston (Livingston High School, 2019; Campus Park Elementary School, 2017; Livingston Middle School, 2016), Merced (UC Merced Multicultural Center, 2019; Merced Multicultural Arts Center, 2015), and Planada (Planada School District, 2017). The artist recently completed one of the murals in the Caltrans Merced Mural Art Project, adorning a wall in the Highway 99 undercrossing at G street in Merced.
Gomez also works with the organization Artolution, (artolution.org ) a community based public art non-profit that seeks to ignite positive social change through collaborative art making around the world. They develop projects that bring together children, families, local artists, educators, and community groups to address critical issues related to armed conflict, trauma, and social marginalization. Their global initiatives promote reconciliation, healing, and resilience. Gomez has participated in Artolution projects in Los Angeles (for the YMCA) and in Bangladesh working with refugee populations.
The Carnegie Arts Center is located at 250 N. Broadway in downtown Turlock. Visit online at: carnegieartsturlock.org.