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Life on California's beautiful Central Coast

They moved the mural that no one likes

The mixed use residential and retail project along Victoria between Chapala and State Streets (immediately behind the Arlington Theatre) is moving forward, and earlier this week a crew moved the Mosaic Mural that No One Likes.

It’s a piece from local artist Joseph Knowles (1907-1980) that formerly faced Victoria Street, and as of yesterday afternoon had been craned over to face Chapala Street. I put on my “sometimes I miss Edhat” hat and took some photos of the new location before yoga on Wednesday.

Musical chairs for this mural

The Arlington spire in the background

The Arlington spire in the background

The architects designing the project gave a lot of thought to preserving the mural, which is admirable and important. It’s a little funny, though, because of all the public art in Santa Barbara, this seems to be the one piece that no one really likes.

I’m not sure if its the colors, or the subject matter (early California history) or the fact that the little tiles remind them of their grandma’s bathroom, but I’ve yet to meet anyone who professes any affection for this artistic creation. Apparently the history of the piece wasn’t of interest to this writer from Noozhawk, who covered the story without mentioning the artist or when the mural was constructed. (He did, however, get a nice quote from a former employee at the Vons grocery store, who observed “It looks like something built out of Legos, it’s no da Vinci.” Well put.)

I posted a pic of the mural’s new location on Facebook, where it got zero reaction from my friends. Meanwhile, a picture of a sunset that I posted Wednesday morning had more than a dozen thumbs-up. You could probably tear down the funky murals on Mason Street and get more of a rise from the crowd. Over on Edhat, commenters expressed no particular excitement about the preservation, although one observed: “They look better than ever without the dated framing they had. Maybe they’ll look great in the next new airport.”

Santa Barbara’s funny about development. Some yelled and screamed when this project (37 condos, 27K square footage of commercial use) was first proposed, but once things get approved everybody shuts up and gets on with their lives. That’s probably a good thing. There’s no doubt we’ll see more urban mixed-use infill projects like this in the future, and the downtown corridor is going to be the most popular place to put them.

As for Joseph Knowles, he was also a gifted watercolor artist who taught at UCSB and Brooks, making a significant contribution to the community. It’s nice to know his most visible legacy will be preserved by this project.

Memories of the Chumash, in mosaic.


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