Peeling away the paint: Discovering the importance of murals in the Ventura community


Rihanna Samples

After his original mural was painted over, Evan Mendel’s new mural on the wall of Sivan Windows and Doors is a visual representation of how important murals are to a community. It shows the lengths a community will go to in order to preserve public art and support public artists.

Rihanna Samples, Photographer

While wandering through Ventura, there are many different billboards and buildings all vying for the attention of a passerby, but some of the most eye-catching and interesting displays are the vibrant, artistic murals scattered all throughout town. These murals not only provide pleasing art to look at, but can also shine a deeper light on the importance of public art as a whole. Murals have always been an important part of communities because they provide individuals with the means to express themselves creatively. They allow people to form bonds, to connect through art and most importantly, murals can strengthen a community.

Art is a way for people to connect with each other on a deeper level, to share stories and beauty, and to share emotional pain and joy… Art is what allows us to escape and imagine things that excite and intrigue us.

— Evan Mendel

Evan Mendel, an artist and avid mural painter based in Los Angeles, has always been interested in graffiti, painting and public art, but has professionally been painting murals for seven years. He said that one of the main reasons he creates murals is because he loves “being outside in the community and making artwork that can reach a lot of people. I love having interactions with onlookers when I’m working on a mural. Hearing their feedback in real-time keeps me inspired and excited to keep creating.” Mendel has painted many murals both in Ventura County and Los Angeles, and two of his biggest murals in Ventura are located on the corner of California St. and Thompson Blvd., as well as Main St. and Hurst Ave. 

Located on the side of Sivan Windows and Doors on the corner of Main St. and Hurst Ave., Mendel painted a bright, colorful mural of a woman’s face in January of 2023. This new mural was the direct result of the Ventura community coming together after the removal of one of Mendel’s previous murals. In 2016, a company called Stamp Co. occupied the building and commissioned Mendel’s first-ever mural job on their wall. The mural was left untouched and admired by all until early January of 2023, when Sivan Windows and Doors, who had recently bought the building from Stamp Co., decided to paint over Mendel’s mural. They did this in order to promote their business and show off their logo on the side of their newly purchased building. 

The monarch butterfly mural, located on the side of the D building, serves as an artistic reminder to choose kindness because it is a way to show love in action. This mural was painted last year and brightens up Foothill Tech’s campus, along with spreading its influential message. (Rihanna Samples)

After posting on his Instagram about his disapproval and general unhappiness that it was removed, Mendel was met with a wave of support from the Ventura community who was enraged that his art had been painted over. He shared, “People were genuinely upset [by the removal of the mural]. They made their voices heard by sharing it on social media, making phone calls/emails directly to the company, writing reviews on their Yelp page and using all the available tools to express the feelings of the community.” Because of the coming together and concern of the community, Mendel was able to talk to Sivan Windows and Doors about the whole situation and the possibility of repainting a mural on that wall. He explained that “[Sivan Windows and Doors] had no idea so many people really cared about that mural and public art in general.”

The unanimous support from the community really showed how vital murals are to the people of Ventura County. It proved that public art has a profound impact on people, and it truly does make the world a better place. As Mendel put it, “We need public art, and the only way it happens is when people participate and make their voices heard.” 

Murals have become such an important part of the Ventura community—and on a smaller scale, the Foothill Technology High School (Foothill Tech) community as well. From the large dragon mural painted on the front of the school, to the smaller, colorful butterfly mural inspiring everyone to choose kindness, Foothill Tech has its fair share of murals on its small campus. These murals, especially the bright butterfly that students pass in the hall every day, add to the campus and give it a warm feeling. 

Click here to see an Adobe Spark photo essay containing photos of the different murals around Ventura shot on a film camera (optimal viewing on desktop or sideways on a phone).

Justin Frazier, one of the art teachers at Foothill Tech, stated, “As far as the [butterfly] mural at Foothill, I like that it’s there. It wasn’t my design so I don’t take credit for it, but I was happy to help ASB with it. I don’t think we have the prettiest campus so anything that breaks up the monotony of grayness helps.” He continued by saying he appreciates the art not only at Foothill Tech, but all around the community, because it “breaks up the banality of boring stucco buildings.” He acknowledged how the less traditional pieces of public art also give back to the community, making it a better place. 

I’ve got no statistic to back it up, but I would find it hard to believe that seeing art around doesn’t inspire people.

— Justin Frazier

“Murals are important because they are public,” Frazier continued. He explained how this aspect of the community can bring people together because “No matter what background or resources an individual has, they have the same access [to a mural] as anyone else. One doesn’t have to, nor can they own [a mural] to appreciate it.” 

Whether it be small displays of public art, such as the butterfly mural at Foothill Tech, or larger ones, such as Evan Mendel’s many murals around Ventura, murals and other forms of public art play a vital role in creating and fostering connections. They not only inspire creativity, but also create deep bonds between people and contribute to the overall well-being of a community.

What do you think?