Jennifer Beebe Hargrove works on details in the new mural at Pete’s Towing on Broadway Street. This will be Hargrove’s last mural project in King City before she moves, after having worked on numerous murals across the city. (Sean Roney/Staff)

KING CITY — King City Rotary Club and King City Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture jointly hosted the 29th annual Beautification Week kickoff luncheon virtually this year on June 16.

Beautification Week Chairperson Karen Jernigan introduced the program, while Waste Management representative Kristin Skromme discussed trash collection and King City in Bloom Chairperson Allie Cullen spoke about the upcoming litter pick-up.

“I’m only the czar of beautification because I believe in the power of every person doing something and making an incredible difference in our town, and I’ve watched this for over 25 years,” Jernigan said. “Each one of us can do something and that collective effort ends up influencing and changing a town. I can testify to the fact I’ve seen that happen.”

Jernigan explained that Beautification Week, June 19-27, is about asking everyone to do something, even a simple act like mowing a lawn or pulling weeds, to improve the town.

“Those seem like simple things, but when you have 13,000 people each doing something, that ends up making a difference,” she said. “That’s what Beautification Week is, an effort to improve the community by asking everyone who lives and works here to do something.”

The event’s guest speaker was muralist Jennifer Beebe Hargrove, who spoke about the process of creating art in King City.

Hargrove discussed the artistic side of city improvement after her years of leading mural projects in King City, and announced she will soon move to Georgia.

“People love to visit historical spots and they love to learn about history,” said Hargrove, noting that telling a story becomes part of a local draw. “People move here and they may or may not know why the city’s here. They might just be here for a job. To even have a public display saying here’s a bit about us creates civic pride, and that’s worth it in itself.”

Hargrove described public art as something people can unite with culturally, especially if it highlights someone who contributed to the town’s history. In Los Angeles, that could take the form of artwork depicting Kobe Bryant. In King City, that takes the form of painting farmers.

“It tells a story and allows us to experience a shared narrative, which is powerful in drawing us together,” Hargrove said.

She explained there are economic benefits to art, especially on the sides of business buildings.

“When you take the time to make your place inviting and even have your business tell a story, people want to linger more,” Hargrove said. “They might ask questions, they might want to take a picture, they might post your business on the internet and market it so other people can do the same.”

By giving toward art, the effort brings joy that can then bring dollars, Hargrove said. 

Outlook and morale can be changed, as Hargrove noted some people might grow up in King City thinking big exciting things and talent can only be found elsewhere and not locally.

“To have these projects going on in your city really says we have a voice and we have talent here,” Hargrove said. “Creativity happens here.”

Gloria Sanchez has worked with Hargrove on past murals and is currently working with her on King City in Bloom’s third historic mural, “A Tribute to Cattle Ranching and the Salinas Valley Fair,” located at 1011 Broadway St. Sanchez spoke about her own experiences, which echoed the point Hargrove made about motivation related to talent.

“I was incoming junior year for King City High School and all the counselors told me art is a hobby, it’s not a career,” she said. “‘You should look for something like nursing, doctoring, that’s a career.’ When I worked with Beebe, I was confused because she told me she was a muralist. Counselors told me art is a dead-end career, and I felt so discouraged and didn’t know what to do.”

Sanchez said being exposed to the team of artists led by Hargrove encouraged her to look into art as a career. She is now attending Hartnell College as an art major.

“I pursued the passion of art,” Sanchez said.

King City in Bloom’s newest mural will be unveiled on Thursday, June 24, at 3 p.m. at the corner of Broadway Street and Franciscan Way.

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Sean Roney is a freelance reporter for King City Rustler and Salinas Valley Tribune, a unified publication of Greenfield News, Soledad Bee and Gonzales Tribune. He covers general news for the Salinas Valley communities in South Monterey County.


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