Some walls have a message

THIS NEW MURAL at Henry’s brings color and spirit to a largely industrial area of central Garden Grove (Orange County Tribune photos).

Art, like beauty, is said to be in the eye of the beholder. We create and share art to express ideas, illuminate beauty and mark places of interest. Now, subjectively, there is a great art and good art  … and stuff that makes you think it was done by Art Les, but that remains a matter of opinion.

Our opinion is that public art is a good thing. In recent years, some excellent local artists including Robin Marcario (mosaics) and Jennifer Stewart (sculpture) have brightened the vistas of Garden Grove.  We’ve also enjoyed the cheerful and historic decorations of utility boxes, and look forward to more.

We also like murals because they are not only eye-catching, but tend to be colorful and celebratory of a beloved place or area. The latest fun example is along the east side of Henry’s, a venerable bar and grill (above) on Stanford Avenue that sparkles with personality and local identity, including references to the community’s trademark symbol, the strawberry.

Not far from there is a wrap-around mural at the Courtyard Center in the Village Green Park. It celebrates nature with its bird and bees and flowers and vines, and helps recall the days when Garden Grove had more critters than citizens. It adds a colorful dimension to what was the community’s original park, the much-smaller Euclid Park, which is also a century old.

But, alas, not every good intention makes good art. On the south side of the restored Gem Theatre (also dating back to the Roaring Twenties) is a mural painted by Todd Marinovich, a one-time Orange County football star who stood out at USC, was drafted by the NFL and ….

GEM WALL MURAL: What’s with the peacocks and the alligator?

Well, let’s be charitable and say he was not cut out to go the distance. He doesn’t seem to be cut out to be the kind of artist who will appeal to the average Joe. Some of his work is quite good – see www.marinovichart.com – and some, like the mural at the Gem seems like …

Let’s be charitable again. The peacocks, snakes, alligator, etc. don’t appear to have any connection at all to the historic center of the community in which it’s located. It looks like the result of a fever dream. The best justification we’ve heard for the mural – which cost a fair piece of change – is that it was evidence of the city’s intention to keep the Gem Theatre and not replace it with a Jamba Juice.

Our point here is that all public art, good, bad or otherwise, helps distinguish an area and helps make a “place.” It creates conversation and even serves as a landmark.

ON THE OTHER HAND, some walls are unquestionably walls of shame. There’s a pedestrian tunnel under the Garden Grove Freeway (between Brookhurst Street and Magnolia Avenue) that leads from Trask Avenue to Garden Grove Park and Bolsa Grande High School.

That tunnel has been an eyesore, a crime magnet, litter generator and embarrassment for literally generations. It was originally a good idea: a way for people – primarily kids – to go to the park or high school without having to take a very, very, long way around.

WOULD YOU like to walk through this on your way to school or park?

Good intentions, bad result. It is perpetually full of litter and graffiti and sometimes the unconscious unsheltered person sprawled across the path. Simply painting over the graffiti is not the answer. Sometimes the taggers come back within minutes, pleased at having a nice new canvas to “create” upon. There is no pretension to art here. It’s simple adolescent bragging, not unlike what dogs do to trees.

Anyone passing through or by that tunnel – including the many students at Bolsa, which resumed classes on Monday – is exposed to depressing ideas about the community and the world around them.

We’re not sure what the solution is. Simply closing or even cementing up the passageway would create more problems than it solves. But there has to be somebody somewhere who’s had – and conquered – a similar problem.

Such a person would deserve our gratitude and an open tab at Henry’s.

 “Usually Reliable Sources” is posted on alternate weeks, switching places with Jim Tortolano’s “Retorts” column.





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