By Kathy Chouteau
A historical mural restoration by artist Dave Cho is nearing completion following a multi-week touch up in Hercules. Known as the “Sycamore Mural,” the 200 ft. x 17 ft. artwork—which portrays the history of Hercules and the indigenous Ohlone Native Americans—is located underneath the I-80 overpass at Sycamore Avenue in Hercules, where it has been displayed for more than four decades.
Cho, who is currently on his fifth week restoring the mural, is set to complete his work by June 9-10, according to Richmond Standard tipster and Hercules resident Oscar Adams, via info provided by Hercules Parks and Recreation Director Christopher Roke. Cho is apparently the right person for the job, having previously restored the mural in 2005, according to the same source.
Adams—a history enthusiast with a BA Degree from San Francisco State University—said he drove by Cho painting touch-ups to the mural one day and pulled over to find out more about the project. If the mural doesn’t get restored, the entire mural can be lost, Adams learned from Cho, noting that the artist said it took him a few years to get the approval from the Hercules City Council to move forward on the current restoration.
Describing the horizontally orientated mural, Adams said it “starts with animals, jumps into Ohlone and [Native American] life, then modern Native Americans with clothing influenced by European settlers, then the industrial period/WWII soldiers/dynamite factory [in Hercules] and then transitions into modern Hercules…”
Adams added that he thinks it’s important that people know about this project because “the best way to move forward is to understand our past…we can’t lose sight of where we come from…It’s good for reflection.”
The Sycamore Mural was originally painted by the late Nancy Howry Thompson in the late 1970s, according to Hercules City Manager Dante Hall’s May 26 report (while City officials note the teams’ date of completion as the late 1970s, a notation on the mural indicates a date of 1981).
According to her 2005 obituary in the Contra Costa Times, Thompson worked as the City of Hercules’ artist in residence from 1979-1984. During the mural project, she oversaw a large group of community members—including local residents and students from Pinole Valley High School—who pitched in on the effort.
This time around on the restorative project, David Cho is flying solo and working long days toward its completion, said Adams.
In the City Manager’s May 26 report, City officials said “the transformation is amazing” on the mural and encouraged locals who see David out there, to stop and say hello to the artist. “All of the positive feedback he has been getting really keeps him motivated to get the project done.”