Next time you drive past the Pear Tree Center on Perkins Street, slow down and check out the new mural on the south wall of Lucky Supermarket – live, in color and in progress.
It is an ongoing work by artist Anthony Ortega, his unique interpretation inspired by 1920’s fruit crate labels, sponsored by San Diego-based CIRE Equity, owners and managers of the Pear Tree Center.
“I’m passionate about incorporating public art into our properties to create a sense of place that resonates with the community,” said Kelly Price, director of business development at CIRE Equity.
Pear Tree Center values community involvement and over the years has been an active member of the Greater Ukiah Business and Tourism Alliance and an ongoing sponsor of numerous community events including Sundays in the Park, PumpkinFest and Ukiah on Ice.
Regularly involved in supporting the arts community of Ukiah, they have partnered with local artist Lauren Sinnott in 2020 to recreate her mural of the Ukiah Valley Conference Center on light pole banners throughout the center and in 2021 they have a contribution to the opening of Deep Valley Arts Collective done middle gallery.
They’ve had a number of collaborative partnerships with the city over the years and were specifically inspired by the Fifty in Five campaign, an informal initiative by the Community Services Department that plans to have 50 artworks installed throughout the community over the next five years, which began process about a year ago.
“|Our team formed a committee to determine the best place to integrate art in public spaces,” says Kelly.
After the first tour of the site, the decision was clear – the Lucky supermarket wall. Its massive size of 3,175 square feet overlooking Perkins, the gateway to downtown Ukiah, and location offers maximum visibility and an immediate sense of place.
On Wednesday afternoon, Ortega evaluates his previous work in the pear tree center.
Lucky’s management agreed with the vision, only requesting that the creative connection to their business should be an interpretation of the history of Ukiah and its roots in agriculture, particularly the pear orchards, and it evolved towards using a fruit crate label of the 1920s as an artistic theme.
“When we were approached about this project by the Pear Tree Center we knew we really wanted to be part of it,” says Adam Smith, Lucky Store Manager at Ukiah. “Given the excellent visibility, we thought it would be a good project for the neighborhood and were excited to add artwork to the community.”
After contacting a number of their artists, the Pear Tree Center chose Ortega, who they have worked with in the past. They told him the goals and he quickly came up with his own inspirational interpretation and design concept featuring a woman holding a pear and a background overlooking the valley and mountains.
A Reno-based tattoo artist and successful muralist, Ortega began graffiti at age 13, like many street artists, using spray paint in an artistic way.
“As far as scalability goes, I’ve always wanted to paint big and I’ve always seen my paintings on a large scale. Being a tattoo artist helps with that and there is technology, projectors and apps that allow you to arrange drawings on a grid system for big interpretations.”
For the Lucky wall, he uses the bricks, vents, and light fixtures as a grid system to align the painting. His original digital design is on his iPad and on Wednesday night he puts his iPad and projector up a ladder and projects the image onto the wall, growing from 8.5 inches to 11 inches to 30 feet to 150 feet. Then he gets in the elevator and roughly sketches what isn’t in color so he knows where to put everything.
Over the next few days he will be going through and sketching through the colors, spraying lights and drop shadows, making it nice and clean and adding final details, hoping to have it finished by Sunday.
He has previously researched and dealt with the historical aspect of the city.
“I like to build that into pretty much everything I do to make it fit the place I work, so it has meaning. The old fruit crates have really cool artwork and I was inspired by the mountains and trees, the hilly, rural aspects of this area. These were some of the images that first struck me. I created my own original image based on the crates to match the area.”
Mural artist Anthony Ortega sketches his mural on the wall at Lucky supermarket on Tuesday night, which is slated for completion this weekend.
He says: “I really believe that I’m here to make art, I feel 100 percent as a visionary artist; If I don’t have any images for reference, I create my own images. My original artistic style is much that does not exist in this reality; it is abstract; I can pull it from somewhere else.
“I get inspiration from life; I need to paint, do something artistic – sculpting, fishing lures – anything art related that fits my lifestyle.
“I did a lot of research into my own psyche and kept motivating myself to create more. It was never about doing anything else; It always comes down to painting – bringing my vision from a place where no one can see it, where everyone can see it.”
“With pear trees covering almost every corner of the valley in the 18th century, the mural honors the history of Ukiah, our partnership with Lucky and the name of the mall,” says Kelly.
After everything was in order, the concept was presented to Ukiah City Council and approved unanimously last December.
To further connect the community and benefit an ongoing non-profit they support, the Ukiah Valley Christmas Effort, Pear Tree Center took it a step further.
“We received an email from the Pear Tree Center saying they wanted to make us a benefactor of the mural photo contest they sponsored,” said Sheryl Graves, President of the Ukiah Valley Christmas Effort.
Those who share their photos of the mural with the Pear Tree Center using the hashtag #PearTreeUkiah will be entered into a drawing to win one of five $100 gift cards, and each photo using the hashtag will become a $1 donation (with a maximum contribution of $1,000) to the Christmas effort. Entries will be accepted until midnight on May 14th and the winner will be announced on May 15th.
“They have been contributing to us for years; this goes very well with their generosity towards us – they always ask what else they can do. How do you say no to that? It’s good stuff all around,” she says.