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Ceres will begin sporting more murals on walls
• Art also going up on Delhart’s building
Aztecan art Hocus
Aztecan art mixes with a classic car lowrider on the south wall of Hocus Ink Tattoo Shop on Mitchell Road. The art is visible to those who pull into the adjacent post office parking lot. - photo by Jeff Benziger

The celebrated Ceres Paint Up Festival of 1961 put Ceres on the map when townsfolk painted art murals on walls in downtown, some which survive to this day. In the 63 years since, cities like Modesto and Manteca have added murals to their business districts while Ceres watched its murals fade. But last November the city of Ceres advocated for new murals and formed an ad hoc committee to suggest possible sites and establish art standards.

Jose Alonzo Manriquez, owner of Hocus Ink Tattoo Shop on Mitchell Road adjacent to the Ceres Post Office, jumped at the news.

“I painted something many, many years but they made me erase it,” said Manriquez, best known in Ceres as Hocus. “Everything has changed.”

Manriquez and friend Leon Henry of Ceres quickly drew up with mural design featuring a lowrider and Aztecan images and recently applied it on the southern wall of his business.

“I talked to Mayor (Javier) Lopez and they told me the city wants to do more murals so hopefully I’ll be doing more,” said Manriquez, who was a spray paint artist before he began tattooing at his Ceres shop 19 years ago. “Murals make people happy and get people excited. It livens up a community.”

The Hocus mural was funded through a grant from the Stanislaus County Arts Commission. The grant is also funding three other murals, including one on H Street in Modesto and one on South Seventh Street near the Modesto Livestock Auction yard. Also in the works is a mural on the south wall of Delhart’s Home Furnishings facing Lawrence Street. Working during the cooler evenings, his goal is to finish the work before the Ceres Street Faire. The Delhart mural, he said, will incorporate the Ceres Drive-In Theater and hot air balloons since Ceres now has a balloon festival.

When Mayor Lopez brought up the idea of a murals ad hoc committee, the enthusiasm of Ceres resident Irene Ortiz earned her appointment to the committee. She commented that murals are a great idea and would add character to Ceres and “color into our town.” Ortiz said she assisted painting a mural on a wall at the old Ceres Flea Market.

The ad hoc committee also consists of Councilman Daniel Martinez and Mayor Lopez.

“We came up with perimeters on what we’d like to see, things that have worked for other cities, different inspirations, looking at the history of Ceres, looking at what works with Modesto and Turlock with the art they have going,” said Martinez.

Murals were recently added to some of the concrete walls of the skate park in Smyrna Park, courtesy of art students from the local high schools.

The city aims to set standards for murals and recently stepped in to ask VIP Smoke Shop – which is in view of freeway traffic – to tone down the art painted over its entire exterior surface. City officials didn’t like the first paint scheme of bright school bus yellow with black stripes and asked the shop to reconsider. They complied but the second design featuring an image of the late Bob Marley smoking from a hookah, a cartoonish Cheech and Chong riding in a marijuana smoke-filled van and Bart Simpson spray-painting graffiti, again met with city disapproval. The owner later removed the hookah, the smoke emanating from Cheech and Chong’s VW and removed Bart Simpson altogether.

The 1961 Paint Up Festival made a splash in national media when the Saturday Evening Post published a spread of photos. Over the years buildings that sported the murals came down and some were painted over. Today the only murals that remain from 63 years ago are on the south and west walls of the Odd Fellows Hall.