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City event showcases citizen art at the center
Community Center brimming with productions of local talent
City of Ceres Recreation Department employees Traci Farris (left) and Cambria Pollinger (center) show off the tile mosiacs which will b affixed to an outer wall of the Community Centers courtyard. These tiles were completed by residents of the Davis Guest Home, members of city staff and Ceres Youth Commission members. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/Courier photo

What would cause a young artist to spend 60 hours on a mural or a former state legislator to peel his watercolor works off the walls of his home and display them publicly? What would cause amateur photographers to shell out money for prints or five members of the Persephone Guild to donate over 320 hours to form a quilt?

Their love of community and art - that's what.

Ceres residents turned out March 25 to check out the contributions of art that has enhanced the walls of the Ceres Community Center during the city's Open Art Gallery. The event was designed to promote art in the center - which opened in 2009 - but also spark ideas about how the world of art could be opened on a communitywide scale.

Cambria Pollinger, the city's Recreation Department supervisor, explained that the City Council has set a goal of beautifying Ceres, which prompted her and Ceres Recreation manager Traci Farris to see what other cities are doing. They viewed art in Lodi, which spearheaded a committee to promote art in the Community Center and the city as a whole.

"Our goal is to kind of inch out into the community, like utility boxes potentially with murals or sides of public bathroom walls," said Pollinger. "We're working with the high schools to create, potentially, something with the Centennial, whether it's the logo or banners."

She said her staff considers it a blessing that so much locally-based talent has filled the call for art.

"Aside from some small investments with some frames, all of the art contributions have been relatively free. And we've worked with a lot of schools and different organizations."

Recreation staffers had a chance to promote an upcoming tile mosaic wall project that will be affixed to an outer wall of the center's courtyard. Farris showed tiles completed by residents of the Davis Guest Home, members of city staff and Ceres Youth Commission members.

The city wants to raise funds for the city recreation scholarship fund and Community Foundation by selling 5" x 5" white tiles which can be painted by the community for $20 apiece. Thus far the city has sold 22 and need to sell 72. Workshop dates will be set so materials will be available at no extra cost. The owner of the now-closed Suszanne's Ceramics has offered to fire them in the kiln.

The wall will accent the courtyard, which has been landscaped by the Ceres Garden Club. Pollinger noted that river rock used in the landscaping was repurposed from another park.

"We're trying to make that an area where people can relax and enjoy nature, because that's very much a part of recreation," said Pollinger.

Pollinger said she is a big believer that recreation benefits the whole person and feels that the community art quest can bring out the creativity in all.

"There's lots of different ways to be creative so our hope is to engage people and educate them on different ways you can be creative because we all have a little bit in us."

During the tour, the crowd was shown a large quilt, produced by the Persephone Guild and named "Orion's Star," hanging above one of the entrances to the small meeting room. Each year the club makes a fundraiser quilt and raffles it off May 10. This year's quilt is on display.
The quilt has been a 40-year tradition for the club, said Nancy Johnson of the Persephone Guild. Five ladies have invested in about 350 volunteer hours in the quilt with $500 in materials have been invested purchased by members.

Tickets are $1 each or six for $5.

Farris said the city would like other residents to loan quilts for display at the center.

"Our aim is to continue showcasing quilts throughout the year and each year we hope that the Persephone Guild will bring back their annual quilt so we can display it," said Farris.

On the ground floor, Pollinger stopped at the photo collection which rotates every two months. Local photographers like Don Cool have contributed photos ranging from nature to portraits. This month, seven works of Dylan Robbins hang on the wall.

"We are looking for more photographers," said Pollinger. "You don't necessarily have to be from Ceres. We certainly would love to showcase Ceres people and it could be any style of art. They do not have to be professional. In fact we prefer to help someone inspired by being creative."

The photo wall is to change out May 1.

The tour moved to the stairs where the watercolor art of Bill Berryhill, a wine grape grower in Ceres and Linden and a former state Assemblyman. Other works - a church scene by the late Maryellen Berryhill and flowers done by aunt Edith - have been in the Berryhill family for several generations.

"I grew up with my mom teaching me watercolors and her teacher was aunt Edith, who lives in Berkeley," said Berryhill. "Watercolors has been kind of thing we learned from day one and we're just honored to share this with the community - it's fun."

Some of Bill's duck paintings will be featured on the Berryhill Vineyard's new wine label coming out in May.

Upstairs, Farris had a chance to brag on her husband's cousin, Tyler Abshier, who a year ago finished a large wall mural of a native, pristine Central Valley as it would have appeared 150 years ago. The 2001 Ceres High graduate spent about 60 hours on the project in the seating area of the upstairs lobby.

"It gives a rough idea of what the area would have looked like naturally before the settlers arrived," said Abshier during the tour. "I wanted to be able to present something for the people who use the seating area and maybe have something beautiful that they could look out into instead of just a blank wall. I hope that I achieved that."

Opposite the upstairs mural is a section dedicated to showcasing teen art. The wall is also including short stories, poetry and photography. Teacher Kari Copley said her students in a new Advanced Digital Photographics produced art in Central Valley High School's digital art lab using a combination of photography and digital effects. She pointed out that some of the current art was developed out of a field trip to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

The city hopes to quarterly revolve in new displays.

Around the corner is an elementary school art wall featured in frames donated by the Persephone Guild.

"This has been one of our favorite walls and gets a lot of foot traffic going to dance," said Pollinger. "We've utilized four or five schools now and they've displayed all different kinds of mediums of art so we're really proud to have those."

The last stop of the tour was to peer into the recreation/dance room which is decorated by a mural done by Angela Mendoza, a long-time Ceres resident. She designed and created the rainbow-like artwork with silhouettes of five individuals engaged in various activities, including yoga, dance and ballet. It took Mendoza 26 hours on the project over a two-week period, having to work around activities in the room before 11 a.m. and after 3 p.m. It was her first attempt at a major art.