While walking in downtown Dickinson, passers-by may notice someone, or a group of people, painting a wall into the evening hours. But this is not your typical paint job.
The mural, which was created by Guillermo Avalos, will be completed over the next couple of weeks on the one of the exterior walls of the Dickinson Fire Department building, weather permitting, and will showcase the importance of patriotism and the roots of the Fire Department.
Fire Chief Robert Sivak said his wife came up with the idea for a mural.
"I have to give my wife credit, quite honestly," he said. "... For years she would say, 'That wall is just crying out for something, you've got to do something on that wall.' "
He said about a year ago at a management meeting, City Administrator Shawn Kessel said funding was available for art projects around town and asked if anyone had ideas for such a project.
The Fire Department eventually received a $10,000 arts designation grant for the mural project. Kessel said he hopes the appropriation continues in the years to come.
"I think it's important that it spark conversations in the community," Kessel said. "I think art and the appreciation of art is always in the eye of the beholder. It says something about a community that appreciates and invests in the arts and I hope that we are one of those communities. I think we're certainly on that path and I hope that we continue down that path into the future."
Kessel said he hopes that the mural can help inspire others to create similar pieces and to spread the message of the arts across the city.
"I think it's amazing," he said. "I think that the plan that I saw the draft of what it was going to look like is just amazing."
After receiving funding, Kessel put the department into contact with Kris Fehr from Best Friends Mentoring, who connected the department with Avalos. Avalos is the same artist who created the mural on the side of the Best Friends Mentoring building.
"One step at a time, here we are," Sivak said. "... It wasn't an overnight process, it was at least a year in the making."
Avalos, who is from Southern California and has worked on murals across the world, has been coming to Dickinson for painting work for the past few years. He said while he can give people the tools and knowledge to make the project possible, he wants it to be the community's project.
"I could have just been the artist and came out and painted it myself," he said. "But I want the attention to be on the community. That's what really matters."
The mural is similar to a color or paint-by-number, where people can use the pre-made paint to fill in the spaces on the wall. Avalos plans to make a plaque or legend of some sorts after the mural is completed that will have the names of those who helped create the piece.
He said this mural has a special meaning because it's his 50th piece. Other places where he has done murals include in Mexico City, Berlin and other U.S. states.
"It's taken me over 26 years to get to where I'm at today and it just happens that Dickinson is allowing me and giving me permission to do this with members of its community," he said. "It's very special for me to say I've painted my 50th mural in a very far place from California. It's a great opportunity."
He hopes this project kick-starts other projects like this.
"When you paint your house, the neighbor next door wants to paint their house," Avalos said. "So that's how it starts off. Usually, when we do work on a small project like this, it has tendency to branch out into other projects."
Sivak said it is "amazing" to see the mural come to life.
"My wife and I spent an hour there painting a portion of it, which is something that our artist is open to," he said. "... It was so amazing to paint a portion of it, step back and really see the image start to materialize. ... I just can't wait to see the finished product. It's going to be awesome."
The mural may be painted on the side of the Fire Department, but Sivak said it's not just theirs.
"Yes, it's on the fire station, but the fire station is the community's fire station," he said. "The department is the community's fire department and this piece of work, as much as it is the fire department's mural, it's the community's mural."