Coming together
Coastside artist Ellen Silva stands near a "unity mural" she's painting with the creative input of dozens of Coastside residents. The group says it hopes to place the finished design at Mac Dutra Plaza. Jamie Soja / Review

In an attempt to combat political rhetoric that’s been blamed for alienating many people, one diverse group of Coastside residents has come together to design a color-charged mural that not only accepts, but celebrates community diversity.

The project has been named the “unity mural” and is the brainchild of Half Moon Bay resident Roberta Gelt.

In the weeks following November’s presidential election, Gelt got involved with the Coastside’s “Love and Kindness Movement” which was started by Montara resident Andy Lyshorn.

The message of that group — which has since developed into two, similarly-minded subgroups — was all about embracing differences and showing compassion toward all.

Gelt thought that message could be represented visually with a mural. She connected with a couple key nonprofits and asked Coastside artist Ellen Silva if she would put it all together.

“When I started to invite people into the design phase, I made sure that we had input from those who feel afraid and threatened by (President Donald Trump),” Gelt wrote in an email to the Review.

All groups were invited to participate, and although Gelt was unable to get a representative from each, the final group consisted of people from the Latino community, the gay community, and Asian, Muslim and Jewish members. Gelt says she herself represents the Jewish community.

“We ended up with a really cool team,” Gelt said.

The initial meeting took the form of a brainstorming session. Gelt says people really opened up and shared fears that have emerged with the new administration.

During subsequent meetings, the group’s members moved to paper. Silva said the group members illustrated how it felt to live in the community before the most recent election, showcased the current chaos and turmoil seen today and reflected on what things might be like in the future.

“I took everything home and composed it into a layout and brought it back,” Silva said. “That’s the community mural process.”

When Silva brought back the layout, group members, including children, worked to color it in to signal to Silva which colors she needed to paint and where.

Silva is almost finished with the mural. As of Monday, the mural was still divided into two pieces and Silva said she still needed to add in group members’ quotes.

The group is hoping to place the mural at Mac Dutra Plaza, but Gelt says she has had trouble connecting with the city on whether and how that could be permitted.

“They need something in Mac Dutra Park,” Gelt said. “This would just brighten it up and look wonderful.”

The wall where they want to place the 4-by-16-foot design is shared by Studio 508. The shop’s owner, Carolena Nericcio-Bohlman, told the Review that she has no issue with the mural being placed there but wants to ensure that it has the city’s blessing first.

The city permits murals under its municipal code with some restrictions. Half Moon Bay City Manager Magda Gonzalez says the topic will likely need to come before the soon-to be-formed Half Moon Bay Parks and Recreation Commission which previously existed as a committee.

“We’re not against murals or public art,” said Half Moon Bay’s Mayor Debbie Ruddock, adding that the city doesn’t want to appear as if it’s granting approval to one group and not another. “It needs to be transparent and fair.”

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