Artists make over packing house

La Verne will soon be unveiling a new mural as part of the city’s public art program.

Mountains and an old-fashioned lemon label are the theme of the new mural painted by Joy McAllister and Chris Toovey on the south side of the First Street packing house.

Both artists have completed several of the city’s art projects beginning in the 1990s.

Toovey is an artist and an arborist from Claremont.

“I can trim trees and not have to worry about making money in art,” Toovey said.

McAllister is a local artist who does much of her work for private residences. She is also a singer.

“There is a movement for public art in city spaces,” said Eric Scherer, principle planner for the City of La Verne.

Damien High School, on Damien Avenue, is home to the oldest piece of artwork in the city to be recognized as part of the art project.

The “WPA Music Building Mural” was completed in 1939 and rediscovered during a renovation at the school.

Grace Clements painted the mural through the depression-era Federal Arts Project of the Works Progress Administration.

“We have a good mix of artwork in the city,” Scherer said.

He said the city does not see an end to the public art, which is funded with money from local businesses.

“The transportation mural is my favorite,” McAllister said.

Toovey and McAllister have painted many of the murals in La Verne and two of the most well known murals are “Firefighter” painted on the side of the firehouse and “Transportation Past and Present” located at 2224 Bonita Ave.

McAllister’s favorite mural is the transportation mural.

“It was fun to paint,” McAllister said. “We had a little more say about the imagery and composition.”

“I think that it was really tied to the community and history,” she said.

McAllister said many community members stopped by while they were painting to talk about the history of the railroad.

There was less room for creative license in the firehouse mural.

Both artists came up with a preliminary drawing, which is displayed in the public art booklet.

“This city really loves the fire department,” Toovey said.

Original plans for the mural included a burning building. The final mural includes Santa Claus and is less dramatic than the artists preferred.

“It was a little generic for us,” McAllister said. “It just did not have the excitement.”

After doing so much for the public art in La Verne, it was only natural that the two artists would pick up the latest project of painting that packinghouse on the corner of E Street and First Street.

Toovey and McAllister said the new mural should be done soon. They have had a few problems along the way, but things seem to be going more smoothly now that the painting is underway.

“If all had gone by plan, we would have started in September,” Toovey said.

Before painting could start, the artists had to jump through several hoops in order to get the new mural started.

Because the packinghouse is up against the railroad track the artists had to get approval and authorization from the railroad company.

They also had to pay for a chain-link fence to separate them from the railroad.

“This is all part of doing public art,” Toovey said. “I do not know anyone who does not deal with red tape.”

Though Toovey and McAllister have faced some challenges along the way, they are surely going to impress the city once again with another piece of art that will stand out and add charm to the city of La Verne.

Susan Acker can be reached at

Susan Acker

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