Since its completion 15 years ago, the Vista Historical Mural is showing its cracks, which is why Steve Thomas re-commissioned artist Clayton Parker to restore a portion of the artwork to its former glory.
The mural runs 564 feet along Vistacado Lane between North Indiana and Michigan avenues, spanning nine businesses, and is recognized by Guinness World Record as the longest continuous mural in the world. The flowing mural connects Vista’s past as its present zooms by in cars and trucks along Vista Village Drive.
“There was old, rotted wood, there were doors that were never going to be used with our configuration and it was an eyesore,” Thomas said. “We tracked him down and he knows all the history. When I heard that history, it was, ‘You have to protect this.’”
Parker, 70, and retired after 50 years, came back after Thomas contacted him to tell him of his plans to restore his work. Thomas recently purchased the corner business and is renovating the inside and will open the Barrel & Stave Pour House early next year.
After Thomas bought the property, he was at a crossroads of what to do with the mural as it was falling apart. But two people who stopped to gaze at the mural told him how unique and that it was historic, which led Thomas to learn about the history of the mural.
The mural tells a bit of the city’s history, starting with the Luiseño Indians, the city’s deep Mexican culture, callouts to the 1950s and ’60s, plus more. It inspired Thomas to act to reactivate the mural.
As for the building, bricks were missing and have been replaced, the rotted wood and doors replaced or eliminated as Thomas is restoring the exterior of the building as well.
Parker, meanwhile, explained the history behind the commissioning of the mural, which began in 2001. He was tapped by the city and it took one year of research and planning to finalize the mural.
“We had some of the oldest living residents in Vista, got together and they brought photos,” Parker recalled. “We pieced together an authentic timeline from the Luiseño Indians to the avocado growth. I did a long sketch that I had to show the City Council that wrapped around the chambers.”
But there were deeper challenges, as corralling nine independent business owners and selling them on the project was tough, Parker said. He said several had “beefs” with the city for a variety of issues, along with doubts about the project, but eventually, they all came together.
The city and business owners greenlit the project in 2002, but Parker had clients all over the country and wouldn’t abandon them to solely work on the mural, a point he made clear when he was recruited.
“It was a lot of degrees of difficulty,” Parker said. “Everything had to be primed and sanded and prepared before I started painting, or your paint would fall off.”
The restoration, though, has only been commissioned by Thomas for his building, where the frontage sits along Main Street, while the mural wraps around N. Indiana Avenue and Vistacado Lane.
Perhaps one of the most endearing parts of the legacy, Parker said, is the mural has never been defaced. No graffiti or “tagging,” which he said shows respect between artists, even for those who cross over the law.