Last June the Richmond Arts and Culture Commission unveiled Richmond Identities: Extraordinary Lives/Ordinary People, an intricate five-panel mural spearheaded by artist Judy Baca, at the Richmond Senior Center on Macdonald Avenue. About 50 people gathered this past Sunday to officially dedicate the mural.
The city funded the mural three years ago, despite opposing votes from Councilmembers Nat Bates and Corky Booze. Both Councilmember Rogers and Booze questioned the legality of the city funding a mural featuring anti-Chevron sentiments. Booze also objected to the depiction of Dorian Robinson and other youth in the final panel, calling it “a real RPA banner” and “disgusting” at an April 23rd City Council Meeting.
The mural tells the stories of generations of people who have called Richmond home. The first four sections of the painting show Richmond’s history: images of Native Americans in the city, details of the Spanish era, highlights from World War II, a tribute to the city’s Southeast Asian community. The fifth and final section is a representation of the city’s current landscape including the green movement.
“I wasn’t at all prepared for the complexity of the number of people that were here from everywhere,” said Baca, a professor at UCLA and founder of the Social and Public Art Resource Center. “We took an example of one story from each of the communities to develop a concept that became kind of a signature image of the diversity of Richmond.”
Baca and her team painted the mural off-site before the wall location was identified. They painted onto a screen and then transferred the image to vinyl, which they applied to the wall. “We do not have to go up on the wall and repaint in the historic restoration methodologies,” said Baca. “We can actually reprint the mural. It’s a digital file. It’s completely replicable.”
Mingling with the crowd at the dedication ceremony was Betty Reid Soskin, the nation’s oldest park ranger, Mary “Peace” Head, one of the original Rosie the Riveters, and Urban Tilth’s Doria Robinson, all pictured in the mural. Courtney Cummings, whose mother Wanda Bearquiver Bulletti is part of the mural, was also there.
“For the city of Richmond to even acknowledge us in this way, and for Judy Baca to have that vision and say I want Native Americans to be represented in this mural, it’s an honor,” said Cummings.
After opening remarks from Richmond Arts & Culture Manager Michele Seville, Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, Baca and assistant painter Carlos Rogel, the Aztec dance group Xochitl In Cuicatl performed a blessing over the space and the mural.
“We hope that every person of every ethnicity and every color will see themselves in this mural,” said Seville, “that they are apart of this city and what makes this city the beautiful place that it is and that everyone driving by will comment and be amazed at the diversity of Richmond.”