Historian vs. Mural – 1992

As I mentioned in the comments on the post about Bob Lickter, Nevada City Independent founding publisher Bob Wyckoff departed this mortal life last weekend. Bob accomplished many good deeds in his time here, and I’m sure his obituary will chronicle them much better than I could. Sparky And Scott377

There was only one occasion that Bob W. and I locked horns, and that was the Great Battle of the Muralamo, back in 1992. I was living in Washington state at the time, but I still contributed cartoons to The Nevada City News, through editor Steve Cottrell. (Photo of Scott Pollack and the artist. Photographer unknown.)

Steve called and filled me in on the uprising. Bob Drake, a noted curmudgeon and owner of Wiley’s (now Cooper’s) Bar on Commercial Street, had commissioned Dave (Sparky) Parker to add some life to the bare wall adorning Wiley’s outdoor patio. Stepping up to the challenge, Sparky arrived with buckets of paint and a vision of our cute little town. He was well into the project when Wyckoff happened to walk by and see what was going on behind the wrought iron fence that separated the patio from the City’s historical ordinance.

Or so everyone thought. Wyckoff immediately contacted the authorities and all work on the masterpiece was halted. The next step was the order from the planning commission to strip the wall and replace the painting with a nice bland earth-colored pastel coat of paint, in accordance with the decrees of city hall.

A resistance movement emerged. Reporter Nuke Brunswick wrote a piece about the coming of ‘the art police” and I was asked  to come up with some inappropriate drawing to follow it.

I’ve never been a fan of the art police. While I agree that NC shouldn’t be covered with murals and graffitti  like some towns have done, the Wiley’s piece was on an interior wall, behind a gate which the owner offered to cover with native organic ivy to hide the blemish from touristy eyes. But the city, with Wyckoff leading the charge,  wouldn’t go for it and demanded its immediate removal.

So I drew Bob hanging from a lamppost gallows, and it made the rounds in town. I also did a t-shirt for the bar that declared “SCREW THE MURAL -SAVE NEVADA CITY!” I still have one somewhere.

Being that I was living in Washington state (and that’s another story you’ll be hearing about this year) I didn’t get to argue the point with Mr. W. I heard he was mad about my unflattering portrayal of him, but by the time I got back to town the whole thing had blown over and was largely forgotten.

The last time we got together was a couple years ago when we were hawking our respective books at the fairgrounds. We didn’t do much business (and Bob kept giving his stuff away for free), but we had a grand time talking about Nevada County history and telling off-color jokes. Neither of us ever mentioned the mural episode. Life proves day by day that it’s too short to carry a grudge for too long.

General Dave380(Just like the real Alamo, the mural was eventually defeated and buried into art history. Several years ago, I did this portrait of General Dave to commemorate his heroic struggle against the establishment.)



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10 Responses to Historian vs. Mural – 1992

  1. Don Baumgart says:

    Just before the mural was whitewashed into oblivion I took a photo of Parker in front of it, captioned “Please step out of the mural, Mr. Parker.”

  2. Nuke Brunswick? Really? I’d like to believe there’s a reporter named Nuke out there someplace, but I’m skeptical.

  3. Barry Pruett says:

    Bob: Thank you for providing your perspective of Nevada County. I truly enjoy reading your posts (and cartoons). Unfortunately, I will likely be missing the old KOC Crab Feed this year. I hope that you have a great time if you attend…

  4. Greg Goodknight says:

    Love the Mickey Mouse flag atop the Muralamo. I rarely patronized the local bars until 2001, but my recollection of the battle was that the bar capitulated after a change of ownership and the new guy wanted to placate the city… false memory or part of the story? I thought the mural was a great bit of color and, being an interior wall, wasn’t the city’s business. Making it less visible from the middle of Commercial St. should have been enough.

    The historic town of Quincy had a different attitude, and a childhood buddy of mine, Bob Pfenning, did several murals inside and outside of local businesses there in the ’80’s in a style very similar to Sparky’s. I last visited Quincy in the 90’s and lost touch with Bob; checking, he passed away five years ago. Damn, another old friend bit the dust.

    • rlcrabb says:

      Yes, the city held the new owner hostage over the mural. It’s still under there, and perhaps it will someday be restored when it is old enough to be “history”.

  5. Judith Lowry says:

    I suggested this artist for the del Oro and he submitted a very nice design.
    But the job went to another artist.
    Ah, what might have been.


    • rlcrabb says:

      Nice work. I’m not a big fan of the existing mural. Something bigger and gaudier, with more color would have been my preference. And you should be able to tell what it is from the freeway.

      • Judith Lowry says:

        Correct, and Art likes to get with the locals and learn about their stories, as he did in my hometown of Susanville. He understands the difference between his own salon art and public art, which is for the community.
        He paints outdoors on his murals so folks can watch his progress.
        He’s generous too, he often works with local artists on the “Mural in a Day” projects where he does the underpainting and then brings them in to fill in the colors. It’s an enjoyable, educational experience.

  6. Terry Pittsford says:

    Bless you B.W. and thanks for your community spirit. BTW wasn’t it you who told us at The Independent that attempting to make it a viable publication that we were, “Beating a dead horse”? Turned out to be true, but thanks anyway for your support.

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