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'Art-Felt' Mural Draws in Community

The wetlands mural at Green Valley Road and Main Street finished this summer after artists received a lot of support from strangers.

You've probably driven by the wetlands mural on Green Valley Road dozens of times by now.

It's more than 200 feet long and 4 feet high on a retaining wall that keeps the hillside from slipping down into the roadway near Main Street.

But did you know that a favorite local artist and two teenage apprentices created the public art from scratch?

Renown local artist Arturo Thomae completed the public art piece this summer with the assistance of two students, Abigail Magno, a graduate, and Rewen Reyes, a senior at .

This week, Thomae spoke about the mural at the Watsonville City Council meeting. One city staffer jokingly called the project "art-felt."

“It’s been a very positive event," said Thomae. "Every single day people would come by, honk their horns and enjoy what was being done.”

Strangers offered them water and bought them lunch. Birders came by to make sure the depictions of slough wildlife was accurate.

“They were very helpful,” said Thomae said of the bird watchers.

The wetlands mural includes birds, a frog, monarch butterflies and an otter, which one woman told Thomae she talks to when she walks by the mural on the way to and from work.

“We tried to put all the animals that are in or near the slough," Thomae explained.

The students would research each animal or bird, draw it, then paint it on the wall. There was a lot of learning involved.

“Both the students worked very hard and I’m very proud of what they did," Thomae said.

See a video about the mural project here.

Thomae has created several other public art projects in Watsonville, including this year.

“I think you’ve made a big, big difference in our city," City Councilor Nancy Bilicich said told the artist. "… It’s really nice to see your artwork throughout the community.”

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