Local artists make splash with new mural at the Swim Center

Muralists highlight the importance of the community landmark in their work.|

At the Petaluma Swim Center on Washington Street, an eye-catching new mural now wraps its way around a large portion of the iconic facility, a building that muralists MJ Lindo and Joshua Lawyer call one of Petaluma’s landmarks. The striking piece flows easily from one wall to the next, beginning with a bright orange sun-like sphere, then the face of a woman gazing contemplatively ahead, her billowing hair resembling clouds against the blue background. Around the corner, large birds in flight make their way towards a circular portal on the other side of which is a birdhouse.

“We created her and the metaphor of her, as a bird. Mainly because swimming is like the closest thing to flying for human being,” Lawyer said, explaining the murals connection to aquatics and water. The piece has been titled, “Making Progress.”

“The idea was that you come here to kind of progress in what you love doing and what you want to do. And in doing so, you kind of find a community or a home,” Lawyer said.

The Petaluma Swim Center is special to many, especially those who grew up in town. With childhood memories of swimming at the center and skating at the adjacent skate park, this is an important landmark for locals, and the artists recognize that, and looked for ways to reflect that in the mural.

“It’s supposed to represent this being a meeting point and a home for people who love swimming,” Lawyer said. “It was kind of [representative of] that journey.”

The mural took the couple 12 days of painting to complete. They worked with the City of Petaluma and the Public Art Committee to plan the project.

“Thank you to everybody involved, like the whole city of Petaluma, their arts department,” Lindo said. “They were really helpful, especially in finding this location for us.”

The artists considered public opinion when designing the piece, and didn’t receive much criticism or negative feedback.

“I think people were like, ‘Why a bird?’ That was the main thing,” Lawyer said. “It’s just one of those things where, a fish just seemed a bit like really spoon-feeding people. At the end of the day, the people excited about it are always going to outweigh the people mad about it.”

The Santa Rosa-based couple met in a gallery showing their individual work and have been creating together since.

“I feel like there’s a difference between doing personal work versus mural work because you’re still having to take into consideration the public factor of your artwork,” Lindo said.

Lawyer and Lindo have been prioritizing mural projects over fine art because of the financial stability they bring, but the couple hopes to find a better balance between the two.

“It feels like a musician making music to be played on the radio versus like, the deep tracks that they’re more excited about,” Lawyer said.

To assist in their work and serve as a channel for fundraising, the artist started a nonprofit organization called The Mural Project. They hosted their first festival this year resulting in eight murals but hope to get even more pieces up for the next one.

When painting “Making Progress,” the artists considered the landmark status of the building, keeping the blue color of the Swim Center, but brightening it up.

“People describe the swim center as, ‘Oh it’s the blue building.’ So we definitely didn’t want to take away from that,” Lawyer said. “We wanted to keep it that same landmark, of like, ‘Oh, now it’s the blue building with the mural on it.’”

You can find more of Lindo and Lawyer’s work on the Petaluma campus of Santa Rosa Junior College, and in the heart of Roseland from The Mural Project. Visit https://www.mjlindoart.com/murals for more viewing and inquiries.

Emma Molloy is an intern for the Argus-Courier. She can be reached at emma.molloy@pressdemocrat.com.

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