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published on November 2, 2018 - 7:00 AM
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Just as a painting can make a living room more inviting, a mural can do the same thing for a business.

The Central Valley – and especially Fresno – has a long of history of telling stories through artwork on businesses and public spaces. From the civil rights struggle of the farm workers in the 1960s, to snapshots of the history of communities, murals in the area illustrate the people and stories of the Central Valley.

There is always a new mural to discover, as they are regularly being created.

It is difficult to get an exact number, but in Fresno County alone there are over 200 murals, according to Creative Fresno’s Digital Mural Map – a project of Creative Fresno to map all of the county’s murals.

In fact, in 2016, digital media company Thrillist counted Fresno among the best cities in America for street art, joining the ranks of Philadelphia, Detroit, Los Angeles and New York.

Downtown Fresno even features the Mural District, where you can get a glimpse of a leaning Frank Sinatra on the KJWL building on Fulton Street, or see the rich history and notable people of Fresno portrayed in the mural stamp on The Business Journal building on Van Ness Avenue.

In August, Downtown Fresno’s Majestic Jewelry and Loan Co. on Tulare Street unveiled an 85-foot-long mural by artist Brian Broughton, featuring famous rock n’ roll icons on the side of the building near Chukchansi Park.

Leon Alchian Jr., owner of Majestic Jewelry, commissioned Broughton to paint a mural to attract attention to his business and add more to the city.

I thought it would help downtown,” Alchian said. “We are in a renaissance age with the downtown revitalization, and I wanted to be a part of the party. Hopefully it will draw more attention to my building and to the artist.”

Ben Stockle is the owner and vice president of Richard’s Prime Rib and Seafood restaurant on Fresno’s Belmont Avenue, which will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2019. He is planning to commission a mural once the artist he wants to work with returns from overseas travel.

Stockle said that murals are a neat form of artwork that people enjoy that also make the town more fun to look at, and he wants the mural to show the richness and history of Belmont Avenue – once a key thoroughfare for local businesses.

“Where we are here on Belmont, I feel we’re kind of forgotten about,” Stockle said. “I’m not considered Tower (District) and I’m not considered downtown –I’m stuck in the middle.”

“This was the main, happening part of town a long time ago,” he said.

Stockle wants the mural to depict Belmont Avenue in its heyday.

In Kingsburg’s downtown, there are a number of murals that depict the history of the town and its Swedish settlers as well as Native Americans.

Not far from the downtown area, the laboratory testing business Safe Food Alliance at the Kingsburg Business Park recently unveiled a new indoor mural on a cylindrical wall that depicts a fertile valley ringed by mountains.

Tamara Keiper, the local artist who painted the mural for the Safe Food Alliance, said she wanted to display an image that exemplifies our Central Valley. The mural took seven weeks to complete with the help of her assistant Rachel DeFrehn.

“You can take a wall that’s completely flat and feels like it’s closed you in. With a painting like this, you can open up any type of panoramic world that you like,” Keiper said.

The goal of project was to bring a more welcoming scene to a working environment that is normally sterile – by necessity.

“It makes the whole business seem more approachable, said Sam Keiper, president and CEO of Safe Food Alliance, and the husband of Tamara Keiper. “We have a laboratory environment, and we also have a training center. When you come into the reception area, I think it creates a very nice, soft area where people can converse with one another. It depicts California in a very approachable scene for agriculture.”

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