The mural of a wild and pristine Central Valley that adorns the wall of the second-floor lobby of the Ceres Community Center started as a conversation over Thanksgiving dinner at the family of city of Ceres Recreation manager Traci Farris. Her husband's cousin, Tyler Abshier, has been painting local landscapes and Traci suggested he might want to try painting a mural to add interest to the blank walls of the center.
At first, Tyler, a 2001 Ceres High School graduate, wasn't sure he could accomplish the work. After donating 11 days - five hours each day - on the project, it's receiving rave reviews.
"I have to say at the beginning of the project I was a bit frightened to do the mural," said Abshier. "Not only have I never done one before or anything of this size before but working with materials I'm unfamiliar with. Even so, I thought it would be a good opportunity to try something new and have something that could be enjoyed by my fellow citizens as long as this building stands."
Tyler's work was the focus of an artist's reception held Thursday evening.
"We're amazed by what you were able to do for us," Farris told Abshier.
The mural kick started a drive for the city to form an Arts Committee to create additional art at the center and other places, including the Ceres River Bluff Regional Park.
"I hope to see lots of things come in the future," said Farris.
Vice Mayor Mike Kline spoke at the event.
"Art is relaxing to a lot of people," said Kline, who thanked Abshier for "really bringing things alive." He presented Abshier a certificate of recognition.
The artist brought along smaller acrylic paintings of local vistas, including a country view on Keyes Road facing the snow-capped Sierras, River Road near the Ninth Street Bridge, and the street looking down Maze Boulevard. "He's very good," commented Ceres resident Sheila Bryant as moved from easel to easel. Abshier said he chooses scenes that strike him as making a good composition. He works from photos that he takes.
Abshier studied at Modesto Junior College and after graduating from California State University, Stanislaus in 2007 started painting. Now an employee at Mountain Mike's Pizza, Abshier hopes his work leads to greater things.
"I'd like to have a solid regional base and be able to sell a ton of work and maybe put out feelers even farther," he said.
His work has been shown in Modesto, Pleasanton and Sacramento where his work sells.
The center mural features native oaks in the Valley's native landscape as it would appear 150 to 200 years ago before it was settled. The artist thinks it's peaceful to view in the loft space. It also features tule elk grazing off the grasses in the distance.
"In addition to being just a pleasant scene, something to relax with, it's also a very rough natural history lesson for a native Ceres landscape." He commented that "it's very difficult to find a place where you can see something like this anymore."
Attending the event were members of Tyler's family, including his parents, Debi and Larry Abshier of Ceres,and sister Katie Abshier and her fiancé Steven Larsen.
Cambria Pollinger, the city's Recreation Department supervisor, said the Arts Committee was created three months ago to bring art to the center and throughout Ceres. The Recreation Department will be purchasing Plexiglas frames for revolving art to display Ceres student art at the Ceres Community Center. The city also recently added a piece of artwork by Whitmore Charter School student , Natalie Kraft, 14, on the back of a sponsorship billboard sign in Ceres River Bluff Regional Park. Photography of Ceres landmarks and landscaping taken by Don Cool of Ceres graces a billboard at River Bluff Park that incorporates the park rules.
Pollinger also hopes to see art added to utility payment boxes.
Cambria Pollinger, another manager of recreation, is in charge of the committee. Others on the committee are Cool, Jennifer Rangel of the Ceres Partnership, Whitmore Charter Elementary School teacher Amelia Zschaber and freelance artist Michelle Park.
The committee meets at 4:30 p.m. on the third Wednesday of each month. Those interested in serving on the committee may call Cambria at 538-5782.