By Kathy Chouteau
Richmond’s Panhandle Annex neighborhood has added the crown jewel to a multi-stage beautification effort. It is a new mural that depicts the natural splendor of the local area before the highways and homes arrived.
The mural, aptly entitled “Panhandle Annex Mural,” was made possible by a FY 2021-2022 $8,400 Love Your Block Mini Grant from the City of Richmond that was applied for by longtime resident and treasurer of the local Neighborhood Council, Bernadette Garcia-Roger. It’s located on South 55th St. between Merced St. and Santa Clara St. and is a freestanding mural painted on plywood pieces within a frame.
Muralist Regina Gilligan conducted research to inform the mural’s subject matter via the Richmond Museum of History & Culture, Cal’s Bancroft Library, etc., and also led the painting. She was aided by neighborhood helpers Tarnel Abbott and Martha Jackson, with the latter providing California native plant info essential to the project’s earlier plantings.
The Panhandle Annex Mural depicts the East Bay hills looking East and the local land, plants, birds, animals, insects, Ohlone people and a now-underground creek that have inhabited the neighborhood over the years. A sign by the mural illuminates its various elements, including birds like the Rufous Hummingbird, Swainson’s Hawk, Quail and Nuttall’s Woodpecker; butterflies like the Western Tiger and Pipevine Swallowtails, Monarch and Buckeye; flowers like the California Poppy and Ceanothus; an Ohlone basket and more.
Another interesting element making an appearance on the mural is a red-legged frog, which in the 1890s, the Stege Frog Farm raised for San Francisco restaurants on what now plays home to the Panhandle Annex neighborhood.
In creating the mural, Garcia-Roger said the neighbors “wanted something that was going to be lasting and to depict the neighborhood before people and to get people to understand the importance of California native plants, and the role that they play in the world in regards to global warming…” She added, “We wanted to try to do climate change indirectly, in a positive way.”
In the next three-to-four weeks, the neighbors plan to plant a blue-flowered groundcover version of Ceanothus underneath the mural to evoke the underground creek that winds through their area. The neighbors have also installed grow boxes by a car wash on the corner of Carlson Blvd. and also on South 55th St., per Garcia-Roger. They also hope to plant additional wildflowers in the near future to attract bees if they’re able to procure a $1,000 supplemental grant from the City.
Garcia-Roger and her fellow neighbors were inspired to take action on the neighborhood beautification project—conducted in various stages—when they noticed public areas along South 55th Street were “a mess” with trash and discarded items and required their intervention.
Earlier stages of the project saw the Panhandle Annex folks do a landscaping upgrade of California natives, install three Little Free Libraries, paint/repair 5 front yard fences; and print/install 20 yard signs to remind neighbors about street sweeping days. The project has primarily focused on the area between Mariposa and Santa Clara Streets off South 55th Street. Read the Standard’s previous article about the project here.
The mural, which was completed in late April 2022, is the final largescale effort related to the neighborhood’s overall beautification project.