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‘Watsonville Brillante’ Sees First Mosaic Installment

Completed project will span 12,500 square feet

A 1,200-square-foot section of a mural on the Civic Plaza parking garage depicts a field worker harvesting berries. PHOTO: TARMO HANNULA

Local artist Kathleen Crocetti says she feels a tremendous weight has been lifted from her shoulders.

The first phase of her five-year mosaic project, “Watsonville Brillante,” was installed this month: a 1,200-square-foot section of a large mural on the six-story Civic Plaza parking garage on Rodriguez Street.

The piece, entitled “Strawberry Picker,” depicts a field worker harvesting berries. It was designed by renowned artist Juan Fuentes, who grew up in Watsonville and now owns his own printmaking studio, Pajaro Editions in San Francisco.

Crocetti admits that getting to this first step, especially during the time of Covid-19, was challenging.

“I think it was always needling in the back of my mind,” she said. “I was thinking, ‘Can we really do this?’ But we did. It was an idea that came to fruition and came out well.”

“Watsonville Brillante” was approved by the city of Watsonville in February of 2019. The completed project will span 12,500 square feet of the garage. Community members voted in a public poll for what images would be included, giving their feedback and thoughts on the project.

“Strawberry Picker” is one of three approved images by Fuentes. The others will gradually be fabricated and eventually installed over the next few years.

Fuentes, whose family still lives in Watsonville, was one of 11 children and much of his family were field workers. He was the first in his family to attend college after graduating from Watsonville High School in 1969. He discovered his love for art once he had transferred to San Francisco State, working his way through school and into the art world.

Crocetti praised Fuentes’ strong lines and the visual impact of his work.

“It’s stunning,” she said. “I saw his work long before I knew his background … I knew it would translate well into a mosaic.”

“Strawberry Picker” took roughly six months to complete, with dozens of volunteers coming together at the Muzzio Park Community Center to help with fabrication. It was installed free of charge by Rinaldi Tile and Marble, with Fireclay Tile and Daltile donating the tile.

“All big projects start with an idea or a dream,” Crocetti said. “There were so many emotions attached to this project. For all of us—the whole board, city staff, partners and volunteers. We’re really excited.”

A call for artists remains open until June 8 to design the 185 smaller, horizontal sections of the garage. Anyone interested can get in contact at communityartsempowerment.org.

Crocetti’s organization, Community Arts Empowerment, will soon be starting up its summer art program—albeit in a different form, as shelter-in-place orders remain in effect. The program will now only allow 12 teenagers to be part of the program, which will include starting work on the next panel of “Watsonville Brillante.” Participants will be required to wear masks and practice social distancing.

Crocetti says she hopes that “Strawberry Picker” will help acknowledge the agriculture workers in the community and their contributions.

“They are the economic base and the bedrock of this community,” she said. “The world knows us for our strawberries. This is honoring the workers themselves. It can become an icon for our town.”

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