You can help
What: Flourish Davis: a benefit to support art in public places
When: 6 p.m. Saturday
Where: John Natsoulas Gallery, 521 First St., downtown Davis
By the end of the day Sunday, Davis artist William Maul, in collaboration with several other local artists, will have completed the first mural of a 10-piece series that will adorn buildings and city walls throughout downtown Davis.
This work of art is in the alleyway behind the E Street near the entrance to Peet’s Coffee & Tea, 231 E St.
The cost of the mural — a copy of one of Maul’s original paintings that depicts an actress screaming from a scene in an old horror flick, “The Devil Thumbs a Ride” — normally would run somewhere from $20,000 to $30,000. However, Maul and his team of painters are working for absolutely nothing.
Such is often the case for an artist who wants to adorn downtown Davis these days.
“There’s not art in public places money,” says John Natsoulas, the gallery owner who is part of the Cultural Arts Committee that coordinated the 10-mural ensemble. “The city is in trouble, so here we are, we’re coming up with our own resources.”
Natsoulas will pay for the supplies — the paint, the brushes and the lights — out of his own pocket as he has done for other public art projects downtown like the transmedia sculpture artwalk, which he unveiled a few months ago.
But as the city grapples with a lean budget, artists like Maul must work with the understanding that, unless Natsoulas or another private interest fronts the money — which Maul says is rare — the only compensation for their work will come in the form of painting a bit of Davis history.
For Maul, however, that’s a valuable commodity.
“I kind of see it, for me personally, as a bit of a legacy,” says the painter, who moved back to Davis in 1995 after living in the city in the late 1980s. “It’s a way to leave your mark that’s more visible.”
Natsoulas believes, however, that aside from the fact that artists deserve more for their work, public art projects in town simply won’t happen without more support.
And though he remains committed to helping in any way he can, the gallery owner can’t afford to support an entire community’s worth of art.
“I think nationally we’re going to get attention because we’re getting the art on loan, we’re painting murals on properties for free; there’s no community in the world that can do this,” Natsoulas says.
And Natsoulas says if the community wants to see more projects like the mural series, or an arts and entertainment district or other forms of art in public places come to life, Davis residents will need to step up and answer the call.
As a first step in asking the public to help out, the gallery owner has planned a benefit Saturday called Flourish Davis to directly support art in public places throughout the city. The event will begin at 6 p.m. at the John Natsoulas Gallery, 521 First St. in downtown Davis.
“We’re trying to say, ‘Restore the arts in Davis,’ ” Natsoulas says. “I think my challenge is if (residents) are supportive of arts in Davis, come (to the event). Listen to what the artists have done and what they want to do.”
Guests will be able to bid in a silent auction on artwork donated by local artists as well as on gifts given by local merchants and restaurateurs. All of the proceeds will go to the Cultural Arts Committee, which will use the money to fund various projects it has planned.
“It could be the start of something big,” Natsoulas says. “If we get enough money, enough people show up, we’re actually going to accomplish something. Davis will be a piece of art.”
However, Natsoulas hasn’t given up hope on the city and its ability in the future to fund local art programs.
At the benefit, Natsoulas will circulate a petition to restore the Civic Arts Commission budget. Last year, the City Council cut the Arts Contracts program, an $18,500 chunk of the art commission’s funds.
Before the auction — which also will feature live music — Natsoulas and Mayor Joe Krovoza will unveil two new sculptures that will be a part of the transmedia sculpture walk.
One is a large-format sculpture called “Circus” by Susannah Israel and the other is a sculpture built last week by artists attending the annual California Conference for the Advancement of Ceramic Art, to address budget cuts to the arts in this state. It currently sits outside of the Natsoulas Gallery.
The city has not yet specified locations for the two pieces.
The artists who will contribute to the 10-mural series are Maul, Joe Bellacera, Don Fritz, James Chaffee, Ted Fontaine, Guy Diehl, Kelly Detweiler, Jennifer Pochinski, Kerry Rowland-Avrech and Myron Stephens.
To learn more about Maul, visit his website at www.williammaulart.com.
— Reach Tom Sakash at email@example.com or (530) 747-8057. Follow him on Twitter @TomSakash