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Funds sought to complete work

The first two phases of the fairgrounds mural project are already on display.
The first two phases of the fairgrounds mural project are already on display. Photo courtesy of Jill Munger
When $32 million in state funding for California fairs was eliminated in 2011, the completion of a six-phase mosaic mural project at Del Norte County Fairgrounds looked bleak. 

But organizers hope that with Kickstarter, a grassroots web-based fundraising tool, the ceramic mural depicting 19th-century industries of Del Norte will get back on track.

To complete the third phase of the 60-foot-wide mosaic mural, Piece by Piece Pottery started a Kickstarter campaign to raise $8,000, but if that goal isn’t reached by Jan. 20, all pledges so far will be lost, part of Kickstarter’s “all-or-nothing” policy.

“If everybody pitched in with even a couple of dollars we could finish this project; we could help the fairgrounds,” said Jill Munger of Piece by Piece Pottery. “It’s half finished, and we don’t want half-done projects.”

The first two phases of the project — roughly 80 square feet of ceramic mural — ere completed in 2008 and 2009. The first phase illustrating Del Norte’s maritime industry was installed during the 2008 county fair as an “artists in action” feature.

Plans call for phase three to portray Del Norte’s agricultural roots. Smith River Rancheria sponsored phase two, which
depicts the region’s Native American culture complete with a redwood plank house. The mural was designed by Gasquet artist Rika Blue in collaboration with Harley Munger of Piece by Piece.

The fairgrounds spent more than $6,000 on phase one, according to fairgrounds manager Randy Hatfield. But now times are tough at the fair.

“We do not receive state funding anymore, so we have no money to put into it at all,” said Hatfield, referring to the 2011 state cut of $200,000 — a third of the local fair district’s budget.

“This is the only project in our history that is not finished, and it’s because the fairgrounds lost its funding — they are on a skeleton crew,” Munger said.

Piece by Piece Pottery completed the first two phases with  30 at-risk youth from various social services programs in the county, teaching kids the process of ceramic mosaic murals from start to finish.

“They do everything; mixing the glazes, glaze calculation, cutting the clay, firing the clay, installation — it makes them stick with the project until the end,” Munger said. “It teaches them patience, process and the reward.”

Fifteen more at-risk youths would be involved in the third phase. Some participants are from the county juvenile probation department.

“They can go pick up trash or they can make public art,” Munger said.

To learn more or donate to the project, go to Kickstarter.com and search for “Fairground Mural Project” or “Del Norte County.”


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