Months of work culminated in a two-hour ceremony and barbecue near Surfers Point on Friday as more than 100 people celebrated the dedication of the longest mural in the city.
Former residents of Tortilla Flats, the abandoned beachfront neighborhood that for years was home to thousands of poor farm workers, were joined by artists and city officials as the half-mile-long project was unveiled.
“It’s a big we,” project co-coordinator and local artist M.B. Hanrahan said of the hundreds of volunteers who worked on the Tortilla Flats mural, located along Figueroa Street across from the Ventura County Fairgrounds.
“It’s much more than even 100 people could have pulled off,” she said.
Hanrahan said she was inspired to help save, in memory at least, the life and times of the former residents of the square-mile neighborhood that was demolished in the early 1950s to make room for the Ventura Freeway.
“When something new comes in, something old goes,” she told the audience. “But something that’s gone should not be forgotten.”
The mural consists of dozens of colorful, hand-painted panels that depict various scenes from the old neighborhood. Each was inspired by interviews with former residents or old photographs dug up from interviews.
Some show children at play; others detail old corner markets and local nightclubs. Another shows Shore Acres, a dilapidated mobile home park that used to exist near where the Ventura and Ojai freeways now intersect.
The panels were sponsored by individual donors who wanted to help fund the project.
Michael Moses Mora, a co-coordinator of the mural project who first hatched the plan, said its completion translates to a lasting memorial for those who toiled in the fields and oil rigs when Ventura began booming.
“Some of the youngsters who were out here painting this mural are the grandchildren of residents of Tortilla Flats,” Mora said. “That’s one of the things we’re really proud of.”
Jim Loree, a retired probation officer who has spent most of his life in Ventura, sponsored a panel showing the old Hobo Jungle, a former campground just north of the Ventura River mouth.
“This brings us a historical view that most people in Ventura know nothing about,” said Loree, who grew up in a trailer in Shore Acres. “They’ve done a great job depicting what it was really like.”
Ray Garcia, whose uncle ran a market in Tortilla Flats, said the mural would preserve his childhood for future generations.
“This community was kind of rubbed off the map,” Garcia said. “But a lot of us came together to remember how it used to be.”
Sommers Randolph, a visiting artist from Nashville, Tenn., walked the length of the mural and was impressed.
“It certainly turns an ugly concrete wall into colorful art,” said Randolph, a stone carver working at Art City. “Driving by, it’s a lot nicer to look at than what was here before.”
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Organizers of the Tortilla Flats Mural Project are still seeking sponsors and volunteers for a number of panels on the half-mile series of paintings. For information or to volunteer, call 655-7892.