Mural honoring Native Americans to decorate downtown wall

A blank wall in downtown Napa is being transformed into a piece of art honoring Napa’s earliest residents.

Using scaffolding, paint brushes and gallons of paint in many colors, artist Morgan Bricca began work last week on a mural depicting a scene of the everyday life of a Mishewal Wappo Indian woman.

The mural, titled “Tuesday morning, 1720,” is “an opportunity to show a broader perspective of a community’s history (and) depict a larger pattern of life,” said Bricca.

Bricca, who lives in Los Altos, is painting the approximately 14- by 60-foot mural on the west wall of Shelton Cleaners, 1417 Second St., adjacent to a city parking lot.

The mural was commissioned by West Pueblo Partners, the owner of two sets of commercial buildings on the 1400-block of Second.

“My inspiration is to continue to recognize people who have contributed to Napa history,” said spokesman Michael L. Holcomb.

West Pueblo Partners will spend about $35,000 to create the panorama and improve the landscaping and parking lot around it. The artwork itself will cost $20,000 to $25,000, he said.

Holcomb said the partners chose Bricca after seeing examples of her work elsewhere. “I like the murals she has done,” he said. Bricca “was very receptive to what we wanted.”

“I feel like in our busy, fast-paced lives we need to be reminded of the peace and expansiveness of the natural world,” said Bricca. “When I looked at the wall, I thought, ‘How can I bring that feeling to this wall?’”

Bricca said to make sure her depiction was accurate, she researched the Mishewal Wappo tribe and consulted with the tribal council in Santa Rosa.

“I want to get it right.”

Tribe representatives may be visiting while the work is in progress, and will be invited to a ceremony when the mural is finished, said Bricca.

A representative for the Mishewal Wappo tribe could not be reached for a comment.

Starting last week, Bricca said she expects to spend about 10 days working on the project. For a primer, she starts with many layers of exterior house paint. Then she uses acrylic paints to illustrate the details. After that, an ultra violet (UV) isolation coat and anti-graffiti varnish will be applied.

That “creates a physical barrier that (graffiti) paint doesn’t adhere to,” said Bricca.

The artist said she’s created more than 60 public murals all over the Bay Area, including one at Etude Wines in south Napa.

“I know that I step in as an outsider but I also feel like I have a unique skill of interpreting what I see and hear that makes me uniquely positioned to do this work, even though I’m not from Napa,” said Bricca.

The artwork is expected to withstand the elements for at least 25 years, said Bricca said. But after several decades of exposure, “it will get kind of faded and might need touchups.”

The scene is part of a beautification campaign that West Pueblo Partners is conducting for their commercial holdings on both sides of the 1400 block. Stores and the U.S. post office are getting new exteriors and signage.

West Pueblo Partners has also improved the landscaping of the city parking lot at the southeast corner of Second and School streets, adding abundant floral touches.

“We want it to look good,” Holcomb said. For those driving down Second Street into downtown, “I’d like people to be greeted by a nice mural and our new look.”

Holcomb, who has a growing portfolio of downtown commercial properties, also improved the facades and landscaping when he purchased three storefronts, including a Starbucks, on First Street at Main Street.

The design of the mural was reviewed and approved by the city, said Karlo Felix of the city’s planning office.

This is the second commissioned work with which Holcomb has been involved. In 2015, Holcomb hired artist Mario Chiodo to create 9-foot-tall bronze statues of farmworker rights activists Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, cofounders of the United Farm Workers union. The statues have been installed above Velo Pizzeria, a building Holcomb owns on Main Street.

Holcomb said he has plans to commission more art to honor other contributors in the Napa Valley, including the Chinese and black communities.

“We’re trying to give something back,” he said.

According to the tribe’s website, the Mishewal Wappo Tribe of Alexander Valley is the last remaining Wappo Tribe in existence with 340 living members. The Wappo name, meaning handsome/brave, was given to the Mishewal Wappo Indians by the Spanish.

Bricca will be working daily on the mural this week.

“I love to hear from the community,” she said. “Stop by and say hello.”