By Nicholas Mattson
On a below-freezing Sunday morning, Pat Milbery, Pat McKinney, and Jason Graves of So-Gnar began pulling paint tools out of the bright green Kia Soul in a quiet parking lot on Spring Street. The crew staged for another day of transforming 1,800 square feet of the north-facing wall of Spring Seafood Bar and Grill near 12th Street into an artistic display for Paso Robles into a landmark backdrop sure to be a photo-op destination for locals and visitors.
The project was born of a random meeting between So-Gnar founder Pat and Sasha Irving, executive director of Studios on the Park, during a visit to Denver. The result was a local collaboration involving Firestone Walker, Studios on the Park, the City of Paso Robles, building owner George Shoemaker, and the community.
Sasha and Studios on the Park played the part of the hub, connecting Pat with prominent members of Paso Robles in the fall of 2017 to help him understand the fabric of the community.
So-Gnar designed the mural with iconic imagery from Paso Robles — the Acorn Building clocktower, a rainbow-colored cow, a tractor, grapes, and rolling agricultural hills — and transposed the artwork onto the 99-foot long, 18.5-foot high canvas.
Pat’s experience helped Sasha navigate the red tape that comes with a municipal public art campaign.
“I’ve managed mural and street art campaigns all around the world,” Pat said, “and it is really a nice honor to educate and facilitate some of those common questions that the City and the residents have. It is a nice thing to do so everyone is part of the process.”
The City worked to develop a process for facilitating public art, which takes a community effort.
“This doesn’t come without community support,” Sasha said. “The only reason this is happening is because of a willing building owner, and funding from Firestone Walker — that gets these guys here.”
Returning to Paso in 2018 with the design, So-Gnar was ready to go, and the community was ready to help.
George and his family prepped the job with block filler to seal cracks and give the mural the surface needed to create a lasting result.
“George got out here with his teenage kids [Savannah and Will] and helped prep the wall,” Sasha said. “It was one of those family bonding moments you just can’t … this is how we do it in Paso. I really hope other business owners get inspired and want to make this happen.”
As the crew painted, passersby paused to take in the display — resoundingly, all ages of folks gave positive approval of the developing project.
“I’m happy with how it turned out,” Jason said. “The response across the board, from little kids to older folks, was great. I see it being a nice piece of modern Americana artwork here in Paso.”
From start to finish, Pat said he hopes the project will inspire dozens of similar community projects, and
that this will not be his only trip to Paso Robles.
“It went better than expected,” Pat said. “It was an incredibly inviting community, and we are honored to add something this large and visible to the community.”
Studios’ mission of “providing a creative, educational, and transformational experience to enhance understanding and appreciation of the visual arts” was carried out in full, and left an impression on the team of Denver artists.
“We are so thankful for Anne [Laddon] and Sasha from Studios,” Pat said. “They helped organize the volunteers and helped facilitate the process. They went above and beyond. We appreciate all the hospitality from Anne and Sasha, their crew, and the Firestone team — who were instrumental in making this happen.”
When So-Gnar left, one item remained. The windows were covered in brown paper, and painted over. High resolution photos were taken and sent to Genoa Graphics in San Luis Obispo to be converted to perforated vinyl so that the image will remain seamless and allow light into the dining room of Spring Seafood Bar and Grill. Pat gave thanks to Genoa Graphics for supplying a key element, and thanked Rental Depot for the generous rates on the scissor lift needed to paint the 18.5-foot wall.
For more information about the mural, contact Sasha Irving of Studios on the Park, at 805-238-9800 or go to studiosonthepark.org. Visit so-gnar.com for info on Pat Milbery and company.
HOW IT HAPPENED
Sasha met Pat Milbery in Colorado and began thinking about murals in Paso Robles. She approached Jamie Smith and Joel Peterson of Firestone Walker about the downtown mural concept.
“It was a short meeting, and we knew pretty quickly this would be a perfect fit for Firestone Walker,” Joel said.
Jamie and Joel traveled to Colorado on business, and met with Pat in Denver. “We instantly knew Pat would be fun to work with.”
Pat visited Paso Robles, meeting community members and stakeholders before designing.
“The design process was collaborative and easy. It was evident that Pat learned quite a bit from his scout trip here, and incorporated key elements. The mural captures Paso Robles with agricultural ties, oaks, and vibrant colors — all tied together by our name — PASO,” said Joel.
Firestone Walker continues to support and invest back in Paso Robles. From community ties with Pioneer Day Parade, Concerts in the Park, Paso Pops, and Studios on the Park — Firestone contributes to the fabric of Paso Robles.
“It’s our headquarters where most of the employees live and work. A vibrant hometown not only helps us, but the business community that thrives from locals to tourists alike,” said Joel.