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'Vallejo Rising' mural touts city's ascendancy

By Lanz Christian Bañes

Posted: 01/08/2012 01:01:16 AM PST



Champaygne Tafoya holds her 9 month-old nephew Andrew Soriano as he touches the face of Joey Tafoya during the dedication of the 'Vallejo Rising' mural on Saturday in downtown Vallejo. (Chris Riley/Times-Herald)

For one Vallejo mother, a downtown mural dedicated Saturday was more than just bright colors and neat imagery.

It was a way for Champaygne Tafoya's son to live again.

"That makes me happy that he's going to be on this wall forever," said Tafoya as she stood near the portrait of her son Joseph "Joey" Tafoya III, who was struck and killed by a garbage truck in November while riding his skateboard.

The 12-year-old is not the only Vallejoan immortalized on the mural at Georgia and Marin streets, titled "Vallejo Rising."

After four months of work and community input, local artist and Peoples High School teacher Alvaro Garcia also included others who lost their lives. They include musician Dewey Tucker, 24, one of Garcia's former students. Tucker was shot to death on Interstate 80 while driving to a rehearsal nearly two years ago on Jan. 12, 2010.

The mural, covering most of the west wall of 401 Georgia St., was approved by the Youth Commission this summer and completed last week. Showing images of an ascendant Vallejo, the most prominent symbol of the artwork is a white lotus with "hope" written in various languages on its petals.

"It's just incredible," Garcia said of the community reaction to the mural.

Community members helped paint the mural and gave input as to what went in the blank spaces between Garcia's main images, including butterflies, dogs and words of hope.

If all goes as planned, "Vallejo Rising" will be the first of many

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murals that will brighten the city. Already, Garcia has received permission to extend the mural into the rear of the building at 401 Georgia St.

Garcia hopes to create a "healing wall" that will again involve community participation.

"Every wall in this town should be painted," said local artist Harold Beaulieu, who helped with the mural.

Among those who plan to work on the healing wall is Edd Arreguin, 20, who painted the word "Rising" in the "Vallejo Rising" mural.

"It's coming out nice," Arreguin said.

Contact staff writer Lanz Christian Bañes at (707) 553-6833 or lbanes@timesheraldonline.com.