Tuesday, December 1, 2020

"Enlivening The Matilija Watershed" Mural

"Enlivening The Matilija Watershed" mural
photo by Rich Reid

Culminating more than a year of planning by Ojai resident Ray Powers, the "Enlivening The Matilija Watershed" mural was revealed in a community celebration on Nov 21, 2020.  The mural was painted on removable panels at the Ojai Unified School District located at 301 N. Montgomery Street in Ojai.

The 30’x14’ mural depicts the Matilija Creek in its regenerated state after the Matilija Dam has been removed. The waters flow clear, the wildlife abundant, the flora and fauna vibrant and renewed. The beaver is featured prominently as it is a keystone species whose presence affects the entire whole of the ecosystem. The mural features the restored watershed which feeds a beaver pond where deer, bear, raccoon, and others come to drink. Oaks, sycamores and willow provide shade and a steady perch for the flyers to come and rest. The steelhead move unimpeded upstream to spawn where once they numbered into the thousands. This pristine and rejuvenated landscape is framed by the cobbled remains of the Matilija Dam which once held back the waters and marred the mouth of the canyon. Its removal signifying the steady return of the natural cycles of life.

The underlying theme of the mural is our role in bringing back the balance of these natural cycles in our ecosystem. The inherent relationship we have as stewards of the land requires reciprocal altruism.  Our ecological behavior and tendencies need to shift to insure the survival of all the native species, which in turn will provide the resources we need to thrive. Environmental education, artistic expression and a vision for the future health of the Ojai Valley watershed are the cornerstone objectives for the “Enlivening the Matilija Watershed” mural. 

Twenty-five students, ages 8-18, participated in the painting with direction from the mural artist. The mural is experienced both as an inspiring piece of art as well as an educational outdoor classroom to teach about environmental sciences and our local watershed. There will be a website devoted to the mural as an “image map” where each graphic element will be clickable with resources to learn more. Signage at the mural site will allow people to access the online image to learn as they look. 

The ceremony began with the mural hidden by a painting of Matilija Dam, which was moved away to reveal the wall-sized mural.  Watch the entire event that included talks by Ray Powers (Artistic Director, Project Manager), Dr. Tiffany Morse (Superintendent, Ojai Unified School District), Marcy Toscher (Chairperson, Ojai City Arts Commission) and Paul Jenkin (Founder, Matilija Coalition / Campaign Coordinator, Ventura Surfrider Foundation).  The reveal begins at 21:22.

Short version with Paul Jenkin and the mural reveal:

Below is a fascinating time-lapse video of the painting process:

This community art project is a partnership between four local artists, Ray Powers (artistic director, project manager, Co-Vice President Ojai Valley Green Coalition), Lisa Kelly (mural artist), Ray Cirino (permaculturist, cob builder, art fabricator) and the Ojai Unified School District (OUSD).  The project is made possible by grants from the City of Ojai Arts Commission and the Resource Legacy Fund. Thank you to the Ojai Unified School District for their in-kind donations and partnership, and the Ojai Valley News for their coverage of the mural creation and reveal celebration.

In the news:
Mural captures vision of restored Matilija watershed, Ojai Valley News, Friday, 06 November 2020
Watershed mural set for big reveal Saturday, Ojai Valley News, Friday, 20 November 2020
Mural reveal wows crowd, Ojai Valley News, Wednesday, 25 November 2020