In 1989, when San Diego was experiencing growing pains and trying on its “America’s Finest City” logo for size, a huge mural was painted on a building in the heart of the downtown business district.
The 6,000-square-foot painting of the front page of an unnamed newspaper featured an illustration-in-progress of a man’s face. It was intended as a statement about ethnic diversity, San Diego’s population growth and its ability to balance the economic demands of tourism with needs of residents.
Thirty years of changing weather have taken their toll on this public artwork, though, and large flakes of paint are curling up or chipping off.
Its future is in limbo. In 2014, it seemed doomed when buyers of the building at 1111 Sixth Ave. planned a major remodel.
Artist Kathleen King, who created the painting with Paul Naton, said she was contacted by the building management, Cethron Properties, and invited to remove the mural within 90 days or to waive rights to it.
She was living in South Carolina at the time, and she relinquished her rights.
But five years later, the image of the unidentified man still peers from the painted page. Robert Adatto, Cethron’s owner and a part-owner of the property, explains that his attention turned to remodeling the interior of the building whose primary tenant is now an office-sharing firm, Novel Coworking.
King since has moved back to San Diego and is interested in gauging public interest in restoration and, if there is some, possibly seeking help by mounting an online fundraising campaign to finance repairs.
The mural’s message remains relevant, she insists, noting that San Diego still faces the same growth issues as 30 years ago, including immigration, equality and diversity.
“It’s extremely sad that these are still issues,” King says. “The mural looks like I could have composed it yesterday — it’s still a relevant piece of public art.”
When former building owner Chris Mortenson had commissioned the artwork, the artists had searched for a mixed heritage face — settling on a model of European and American Indian descent. Artists’ hands — one Latina and one Asian — are painting skin tones and chiseling the facial features.
A black hand holds an ink pen outlining the headline, “America’s Finest City,” over a publication date of 2050 — the bicentennial year of San Diego getting a city charter, granted by the state in 1850.
There is no front page body type, but a flipped page corner reveals a headline: “San Diego Welcomes the New Citizens” and copy includes the words: performing arts, balance, culture, youth, impact, period of adjustment, shared responsibility, openness to growth, now equal, neighborhood, many options, questioning, our times and pride.
“It’s saying the future is news,” King told a newspaper reporter at the time. “San Diego is writing its own news, its own future.”
Adatto is noncommittal as to the mural’s fate, although he says he is willing to sit down with King and hear her ideas. He notes that there could be a toxic lead-based paint issue.
“At the time I was interviewed regarding the fate of the mural (five years ago), I was expecting some reaction from the world,” Adatto says. “I got absolutely no response — just from painting contractors.”
Back then, to the best of his recall, a bid of about $75,000 had come in for prepping the wall and repainting it solid gray.
“That mural, lauded many times as a landmark, has presided over the business district for 30 years now,” King notes. “As a public arts advocate and mural pioneer in San Diego, I know that alone should mean something.”
She adds that it would be nice to take the pulse of the community “and hear from various groups and neighborhoods to see if they think this is a good message to continue.”
‘Diana’ finale: British royal family biographer Andrew Morton is returning to the La Jolla Playhouse tomorrow to sign copies of his books (with the help of Warwick’s) between the Saturday matinee and evening performances of the musical, “Diana.” The show closes Sunday evening.
After originally attending the play on March 17, Morton tweeted: ” Thoroughly enjoyed #DianaTheMusical loosely based on my 1992 bio #DianaHerTrueStory”… Genuinely funny and poignant.”
While here, he posed with the cast and joked with mustachioed actor Nathan Lucrezio, who portrays Morton’s character in the show. The autograph timing is good for another of Morton’s books, “Meghan: A Hollywood Princess.” The princess of Sussex, whose father resides across the border in Rosarito, is due to give birth later this month.
Shazam: Young actress Faithe Herman, 10, can now say she had a hand in the décor at TCL Chinese Theatres’ new Theatre Box in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter. The co-star of the “This Is Us” TV series added her hand prints to those of other celebrities in the theater’s growing collection of VIP foot prints and hand prints.
Then, after sampling a King Kong Sundae (containing 24 scoops of ice cream) in the adjacent Sugar Factory café, the San Diego native joined guests at an opening night private screening of her new comic book-inspired superhero movie, “Shazam!” Joining her were for the ceremony were about 60 friends and family members, including her “This Is Us” cast mates Mackenzie Hancsicsak, Lonnie Chavis and Lyric Ross.
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