New mural is tribute to La Verne’s past

“Our Citrus Roots,” a mural by artist Art Mortimer, was recently unveiled on the west side of the Mainiero Building. The mural celebrates La Verne’s history in the citrus industry by depicting an orange grove set along the base of the foothills. / photo by Kim Toth
“Our Citrus Roots,” a mural by artist Art Mortimer, was recently unveiled on the west side of the Mainiero Building. The mural celebrates La Verne’s history in the citrus industry by depicting an orange grove set along the base of the foothills. / photo by Kim Toth

Michelle Annett Roldan
Staff Writer

The University’s science building, Mainiero Hall, has a new mural titled “Our Citrus Roots.”

The mural was inspired by what La Verne was mostly known for in the 1900s, the citrus industry. It depicts citrus fields and fruit with mountains in the background, one holding a letter L for the former La Verne College, now the University of La Verne

It was conceived by the Citrus Roots Foundation, previously owned by Richard Barker who chose muralist Art Mortimer from Southern California to do the job.

“I’ve also done several other murals that are based on the citrus industry,” Mortimer said. “For other communities around Los Angeles.” 

This opportunity came to Mortimer because of the admiration Barker had towards previous mural work Mortimer did for him, specifically in Upland and Newport Beach. 

After 12 days of painting during the summer, Mortimer finalized the mural on which he memorialized the tie between La Verne and its history with citrus.

“The message I wanted people to get was that La Verne used to be covered in citrus trees,” Mortimer said. “Its beautiful Southern California mountains in the background and the palm trees and the beautiful fruit, and that tells the story.” 

The mural’s depiction of citrus groves is a tribute to the area’s past. Before the development of the city, La Verne’s citrus industry was known as the Heart of the Orange Empire.

Benjamin Jenkins, the University of La Verne’s archivist and associate professor of history, said that citrus was a main factor in making La Verne into the rich community it is. That was because La Verne was a major producer of oranges, which were sent across the country.

Jenkins assisted Mortimer throughout the process of finding the perfect place on campus for the mural. Jenkins made the suggestion for the letter L to be added to the mural. 

“It’s also interesting to know that the L in the background was put up by La Verne College students,” Jenkins said.

The L, drawn on the mountains of the mural, is what makes this mural specific and special to La Verne.

“The reality is that just about everything you see here …was introduced by a human being,” Jenkins said. “People back in the 20th century back in the 19-somethings really spent a lot of time and effort creating a landscape that looked natural but was actually very closely controlled by humans.”

Despite the human control, Jenkins said it was an accurate depiction of what La Verne looked like in the past, just like the pastoral landscape Mortimer handcrafted in the mural.

“I think having that nice wall and taking advantage of that space is a good idea,” said adjunct professor of physics Laurence Stein, who teaches in the Mainiero Building.

Mortimer was able to turn the available space for the mural into a historical addition.

“I think it’s good to appreciate that history, and you know it ties into a whole aspect of the visual culture of this whole region really,” said Jon Leaver, professor of art history. “What it represents about the development of La Verne, you know, coming out of that old practice of citrus production.”

Michelle Annett Roldan can be reached at michelle.roldan@laverne.edu.

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