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Being a good neighbor

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By John Werenko

“Be a good neighbor” is one of those fundamental virtues that we learn from our families and teachers at an early age. Unfortunately as life takes its toll on all of us we frequently forget to practice being a good neighbor. Business owners in small communities often perform the task of reminding us of this virtue by promoting a fundamental rule of commerce, “the customer is always right.”

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Dave Fox of CB Fox recognizes the importance of partnering with his neighbors in order to promote the general welfare of both the local and regional community. Fox and the Board of Directors of the Art Center at Fuller Lodge are working with the art departments of Los Alamos, Jemez Valley and Pojoaque Valley high schools to produce a mural adjacent to the newly designated Los Alamos Creative Culture District, on the east-facing wall of CB Fox Department Store, 1735 Central Ave.

The collaboration of business and nonprofit organizations has been a mainstay of American society since colonial times. In his two-volume history “Democracy in America,” Alexis de Tocqueville, the noted French historian, calls the nonprofit sector the most “distinctive feature of American life.” Nonprofit businesses, just as commercial ones, must do “well,” in order to do “good.” The partnering of CB Fox, a local business and the Art Center at Fuller Lodge, a nonprofit organization, are continuing the tradition that has made American society distinctive in the world by promoting the general good of the community.

The theme of the mural is “Paths to Discovery: the Making of Los Alamos.” It will express in visual terms, as Dave Fox said, “the creation of Los Alamos through discoveries in technology, art and science, as well the importance of the surrounding culturally diverse and ethnic communities in helping to make Los Alamos what it is today.” Fox and the Art Center see the mural as a view of the past leading to a vision of the future for Los Alamos and her neighbors.

CB Fox and The Art Center Education Committee is spearheading the creation of this mural by engaging the youth of Los Alamos and two of its neighboring communities, Pojoaque and Jemez Springs. Art and film students from Los Alamos High School, Pojoaque Valley and Jemez Valley High Schools will work together at the Art Center facility in Los Alamos during the winter, to create a mural that will be 40-feet long and 12-feet high.

It will be produced on panels that can be attached to the CB Fox Department Store wall in the late spring of 2010. The art students will be mentored by three muralists, Dick Overfield, Jean Kempinsky and Jerry Beguin.

Kempinsky and Overfield are partners in a professional mural business called Specialty Painting, located in Albuquerque. Over the last 14 years, Specialty Painting has evolved and perfected itself as the result of the efforts of the two partners who bring a variety of skills to the business. These talented individuals possess an extensive background in art history, fine art painting, scenic painting for theater and film, faux finishing and professional mural production.

Beguin, a long time resident of Los Alamos, is currently on the Board of Directors of the Art Center and a member of the Education and Gallery committees. He is a professional artist and muralist. Beguin has been featured in numerous juried exhibitions at the Art Center over the years and has worked in the construction industry.

He is also an artist who sometimes uses the computer in creating his art and then transfers the images to canvas. Beguin has done murals in mosaic tiles and worked with Hedy Dunn, the executive director of the Los Alamos Historical Society in creating its museum display.

The ACFL Education Committee is headed by Lori Birkholz of Jemez Springs and comprises Beguin and Selvi Viswanathan of Los Alamos, Rollie Grandbois of Jemez Springs and Doug Czor of Albuquerque. Board member Frank Morbillo will join the project in manufacturing the anchoring system.

During the month of November, Fox, Norman Worth (ACFL chairman), the Education Committee, Dick Overfield and Jean Kempinsky delivered audio visual presentations at the three high school art departments. The subject was, “Walls that Speak.” Students were shown how murals are made from inception to completion. The students were also given a synoptic history of murals over time and through different cultures.

As Overfield told the students, “Murals are possibly the oldest painting we have. They are also the first public art, the first political art, the first religious art and even the first graffiti art.”

The administrators of the high schools, Mike Johnson, assistant principal at Los Alamos High School; Vera T. Ortiz, principal of Pojoaque Valley High School and Larry DeWees, principal of Jemez Valley High School have given their support to the project and have attended the presentations. In addition, art teachers Dana Salmond of LAHS; Barbara Williams of Pojoaque Valley High School and Mary Grace of Jemez Valley High School are working with their students, and the three artists to create the design that will eventually become the final mural on Central Avenue in Los Alamos.

ACFL Board members, the art teachers, volunteers and the principals provided transportation so the students could attend a general meeting of the mural project at the Art Center on Nov. 21. At the meeting, students from the various schools were introduced to one another for the first time.

They were also given a tour of the Los Alamos Historical Museum and the mural site at CB Fox. The muralists and Fox spoke to students about the importance of the mural to not only Los Alamos, but to all of northern New Mexico. Approximately 20 students have signed up to work on the project.

On Jan. 8, students will assemble at the Art Center to begin the process of producing a scale model of the mural. This will be done on a wall in one of the studio classrooms at the Art Center. Work will progress on Saturdays through the winter, until the final installation in May.

“This kind of project is exactly consistent with what we hope to see happening in the newly designated Los Alamos Creative Culture District,” said Kevin Holsapple, executive director of the Los Alamos Commerce and Development Corporation and Chamber of Commerce.  

“Private businesses in the district working together with arts organizations, youth, and others will make this an increasingly interesting place to spend time and enjoy our community.”