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New Mural Turning Heads in Altadena

Published on Monday, July 11, 2022 | 12:39 pm

Sightings of black bears in and around Altadena have become relatively common, but there’s one bear that’s now the talk of the town: “Rubio,” the life-sized, photo-realistic painted bear on the side of the town’s Grocery Outlet.

On July 22, Altadenans will formally welcome Rubio – and the massive new piece of head-turning, donated, crowdfunded, public art that he continuously guards – into their community with a ribbon-cutting ceremony officiated by the Altadena Chamber for the new centrally-located “Greetings From Altadena” postcard mural. 

A special presentation will provide Presidential recognition of the new mural and the volunteer effort behind it.

The mural, the product of the husband-and-wife muralist team of Victor Ving and Lisa Beggs, is a present to the community, and was funded by donations to cover the costs of materials and equipment. Under the moniker “Greetings Tour,” Ving and Beggs have completed over 50 similarly-themed murals across the country, while traveling by motorhome. 

The couple recently settled in nearby Pasadena – and almost immediately began creating location-focused murals on local buildings.

“Watching that old blank wall transform into such a vibrant and colorful tapestry of our beautiful community’s history and highlights has been a true delight,” said Sandra Valenzuela, co-owner/operator of Altadena’s Grocery Outlet, where the mural is located. “I knew from the instant that Victor approached us that it would be a perfect way to celebrate our community and to welcome visitors. My husband, Jose, and I are simply tickled pink to host this amazing artwork. And everyone loves Rubio!”

Work on the mural began almost as soon as the ink was dry on all of the signatures required on all of the forms required by multiple levels of all of the various corporate interests involved – a process that took almost nine months to complete.

The artists intend for the mural to create a destination landmark and a symbol of hometown pride, and several of their out-of-state followers even visited Altadena specifically to see the mural being created.

“The sudden, intense Summer heat slowed the work down, and we did do the most-intensive prep work yet on any of our projects. We really want this mural to withstand the passage of time, so it was worth the extra time and effort,” said Ving. “The local community has been terrifically supportive, and it’s been humbling to see the power of public art. We even had a family from Washington state who were on a family vacation to Disneyland take a side trip to come explore Altadena because of the murals!”

The mural’s lettering includes several different key aspects of Altadena life and history, including a dramatic aerial drone view of the community, world-famous Christmas Tree Lane, artist Charles White and author Octavia Butler, the Star of Palawoo, local hiking trails, and the historic Mt. Lowe railway – and, of course, Rubio the bear. There are even a few “Easter eggs” visible in the imagery for viewers to discover, if they look very closely.

“I tell folks that the devil is truly in the details,” said community activist René Amy, who donated time and expertise to secure the wall, water blast it, repair it, and prep it with a special epoxy primer before the painting process began. “This is such a great addition to our community!”

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