PoetryView – Modesto’s Murals

by Salvatore Salerno
Poet Laureate of the City of Modesto


Public art plays a riff on democracy,
Since it is by the artists, for the people,
and of what Modestans know and love.
Do make some time, as you go around town,
to meander from your business rounds
or on your way to that movie,
favorite restaurant or pub,
coffeeshop or gallery,
to step around corners, head into alleys,
to meet and greet the walls painted for you.
How bold they are, what a dazzling array!

Some pay homage to hometown heroes—
Royal Robbins and his mountainous ascents,
George Lucas and his monuments of film,
and a tribute to firefighters, heroes every day.
Others celebrate icons of our history—
the Modesto Arch, the hillside poppy fields,
the bountiful harvests of orchards and crops,
the locomotive that pulls them to market,
a cool ’57 Chevy and other classic rides.

Even some businesses got in the game.
Have you dined beneath a harvest moon dog
or been ushered in by the theatre harlequin?
Some murals are ablaze with brazen patterns,
abstract swirls, impossible meaning to know,
while others tease you to go figure.
Why is that fierce woman snarling?
Why is that cool monkey grinning?
Machine, human, and animals—huh?
There’s a lion, a tiger, a parrot, oh my

list is shy of six dozen more murals, I’m sure,
but that’s just what your curiosity’s for!
Go about your business in Motown, folks,
but take your leisure to visit galleries
of the open air, bright displays always there,
ever free, just linger a while and wonder anew
at the color-wild art of democracy.

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About the Author:

Chris Murphy is the President and CEO of Sierra Pacific Warehouse Group and Publisher and Founder of ModestoView Inc. Chris worked globally in the cycling industry returning to Modesto in 1996. He is also the founder of the Modesto Historic Graffiti Cruise Route, Legends of the Cruise Walk of Fame, Modesto Rockin’ Holiday, the Modesto Music History Organization and co-founder of the Modesto Area Music Association. Chris is married to his artist wife Rebecca since 1985 and has two daughters Madison and Abigail, both graduating from Modesto High and UC Berkeley. He is lead singer and guitarist for his band, Third Party that donates their performances to non-profits.