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Neither the cold nor the blustery winds could dampen the spirits of 23 artists as they participated in the 17th Mural-in-a-Day project Sept. 18 on Lompoc’s Art Alley.

Under the guidance of Master Artist Dave Bladgett, the back of the Moore Department stored received a 75-foot mural. It is designed not only to celebrate the history of the Moore family, but also of the time-honored tradition of passing family businesses down from generation to generation.

“Wow, that looks super-duper,” Bladgett calls up to the artists on the scaffolding, an hour into the project.

“You can’t really tell from up here,” came the reply. The Mural-in-a-Day series was the brain child of Gene Stevens some 22 years ago, when he was mayor.

“The town [of Lompoc] was dying at the time. I went to Canada on vacation and, in the town where we stayed, there were a lot of murals. And there were a lot of people coming to see them,” he said. “I brought the idea back to the city council and they approved it.”

There was a time after the mural project first began when the tour buses rolled regularly into town, but last year only four scheduled visits. But that hasn’t dampened enthusiasm for the project, nor the steadfast belief that as the economy improves, so will the tourism.

Project administrator Vicki Andersen approached Lyla Mendez, a member of the Moore family, with the idea. The clan willingly donated the space, and the photographs and history for inspiration.

“We were very supportive of the project,” said Mendez. “The whole town supports them, especially the businesses along Art Alley.”

Each mural takes a least a year in preparation before the day of installation and is a team effort, spearheaded this year by Andersen and Ann Thompson. The once yearly project has been scaled back due to not just the slower economy but because there are fewer and fewer “canvases” left for painting.

Seventeen murals in 22 years is nonetheless impressive was the general consensus of the crowd of onlookers, who filed past the project on and off during the day.

But the murals bring more than visitors and community pride. “Art Alley used to be where all the hoodlums would come. Now it’s a place for tour buses and families,” said Stevens.

Phrankie Guerrero, a graffiti artist, served in many respects as right-hand man to Bladgett. His design was chosen over five other artists who received a packet of photos and family history from the Mural Society before submitting their concepts for the project.

Bladgett arrived earlier in the week. He and Guerrero outlined the original drawing onto the building so the participating muralists could fill in the project Saturday, each with their piece of the puzzle taped to the wall for review.

Guerrero, like many of the other volunteers is an artist in his own right, but supports himself in computer technology. “I’m a geek,” the Lompoc High School graduate says. He was responsible for most of the lettering on the mural, the third he has worked on. The day ended with a short dedication ceremony, including words from the family. Gary James spoke of how much this would have meant to his ancestors. For all those many times he heard his mom complain about “that damn store,” he was certain she would have been proud of Lompoc’s newest mural. She wouldn’t be the only one.

struax@syvjournal.com