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‘See the World in an Apple Seed’

Thursday, October 18th, 2012 | Posted by

Dana Vallarino painted a mural on Edman Way inspired by her childhood in Sebastopol. (Crista Jeremiason / PD)

Story By ANDREA GRANAHAN / West County Correspondent

Photos By CRISTA JEREMIASON / The Press Democrat

If Sebastopol seems more colorful these days, you can thank Dana Lynn Vallarino, the young artist who happily painted the 110-foot mural on busy Edman Way, the busy street between City Hall and Main Street.

A Sebastopol native who will turn 26 this month, she was on the job at least four hours a day for more than 100 days, finishing the massive job last week.

“It makes me feel guilty,” said Sebastopol City Councilwoman Kathleen Shaffer. “Originally we had a number of murals to be painted, but it was through redevelopment money and, of course, that disappeared.

“Dana was the obvious choice when we saw her design, and we wanted it very much. We scraped together a little money, and she was willing to do it for just $2,500. That means she’s making less than $25 a day.”

Everyone who walked by en route to the library, senior center or the Main Street businesses stopped to talk to her.

Do you find all the people wanting to chat distracting?

No. I wouldn’t be a public artist if people bothered me. The mural belongs to the community, not me. I believe in public art and prefer it to painting something that hangs on a private wall. The people are usually very polite and make sure they won’t be interrupting my work.

Describe the mural for us.

It’s called “See the World in an Apple Seed.” A girl is reading under an apple tree, and the pages of her book morph into butterflies that become apple blossoms, and an apple that morphs into Earth sailing in the universe, which becomes hands from the sun, the Earth, water and humans holding a seedling.

Where did you get your training?

I’ve been painting since I was 6. I graduated from Analy High School and went on to UC Santa Cruz. I got a degree in art and art history there, and spent five summers with Art Start, which works with high school kids on public art.

As part of an antigraffiti grant, I got a commission to paint a mural by the Santa Rosa fairgrounds on Aston Avenue. Since it was near the racetrack, I was inspired by horses. The 111-foot mural shows a rose with the petals blowing away and turning into racing horses.

What artists inspire you?

Christo and Jean Claude, because of their interaction with the community with their art. While I’ve painted this mural, it has been part of a film project. I have always loved Diego Rivera’s murals. He believed in public art, too.

What inspired the design of this mural?

My childhood here in Sebastopol. I used to sit under an apple tree and read. In fifth grade I planted trees in the Laguna. In fact, I still do. My mom is a docent there. My dad owns a electrical business here in town. I know that in Sebastopol it’s practically the town motto to “think globally, act locally,” and I wanted to capture that feeling.

Now that it’s nearing an end how do you feel?

It’s still unreal to me. I am so excited to paint a mural in my own hometown. People have given me this opportunity. It’s like I have my cake and ice cream, too.

What’s in the future for you?

Some local people have approached me about doing murals for their businesses. I’d love some more local public art projects, and I may go to graduate school.


  • http://aquamarvels Dorothy Pierce

    Congratulations to Ms. Vallarino. I would like to meet her and discuss art and art education.

  • http://aquamarvels Dorothy Pierce

    To “see the world in an apple seed” reminds me of another poet’s “flower in a crannied wall.”
    The symbolism is powerful. Implications for education are obvious. I support Ms. Vallarino’s
    efforts to contribute to societal values and concerns through imagery.

  • Judy Kennedy

    Dana was one of the most productive artist-volunteers on the Maple Avenue Mural (600-foot long mural at the Hwy 12 on-ramp on Maple Ave. in Santa Rosa). She also produced a wonderful and magical “Artist Billboard” that now occupies a public space at FISH headquarters on the corner of North St @ Benton in Santa Rosa. This woman has a future in art!

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Andrea Granahan is our West County correspondent.
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