Oct. 4 2016 04:36 PM

Tributes to dog parks and parades highlight La Mesa’s urban park thoroughfare

The “Dog Park” mural on the Walkway of the Stars
Photo by Seth Combs

The work of local public artists Janne LaValle and Kathleen "Katyî Styzeleck" is seemingly ubiquitous. The duo is responsible for at least four murals in East County, including the five-panel, eight-years-in-the-making "History of Lemon Grove" mural on the side of the city's historic general store building.

And while the Lemon Grove piece might be LaValle and Styzelecki's most acclaimed work (it was, after all, awarded the Governor's Historic Preservation Award in 2014), their "Dog Park" and "Flag Day" murals at La Mesa's Walkway of the Stars (located between Allison Avenue and La Mesa Boulevard) could be seen as the pair's first foray into the sometimes overly systematic process of commissioned work.

"In these types of public history representations, they're specific about what they want to see in the mural, but they often don't know how to visualize it," LaValle says. "We have to paint it, but part of the process is also taking these ideas the city has for the piece and keep working it until you find that youíve brought people's thoughts and goals to a visual format."

The first project happened more than a decade ago at the Parsonage Museum of Lemon Grove on a giant wall diorama. Shortly after, they were contacted by the city of La Mesa to be one of eight muralists on the Walkway of the Stars, a pedestrian thoroughfare that was turned into an urban park in 2003. The idea behind the walkway was to pay tribute to volunteers in the community and the murals were meant to encompass the same themes, with tributes to Little League coaches and volunteer security patrols.

In both of Styzelecki and LaValle's murals, LaValle says they really wanted to capture the "iconic personas" of both the dog park and the annual Flag Day parade. Both pieces took two weeks to complete. For LaValle, who now lives in Oregon and still does the occasional mural, the La Mesa projects were a "learning experience" for her as much as they were a tribute to locals.

"I look back on it and say to myself, 'Gee, I did that? Wow, cool,'" says LaValle. "It's all about the process for me. Slinging the paint and giving a gift to a community that hopefully the kids will see and learn from. That's the exciting part for me."


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