Horse history comes alive

‘Spirit of the Horse’ mural welcomes visitors from wall behind Elks Lodge
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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The history of the horse in Auburn will now greet those entering the city. Auburn resident and artist Patrick Shields finished a 1,200-square-foot mural Tuesday. The $25,000-mural stands on the wall behind the Elks Lodge on Pine Street facing Interstate 80 and Grass Valley Highway. The mural is titled “The Spirit of the Horse,” and shows the presence of the horse in ancient cultures, moving through the time of the Pony Express and finishing in present day with the Tevis Cup. In the middle of the mural a woman from the Maidu Native American tribe ties the different eras together with flowing hair that intertwines with the horses. Shields said he was immediately inspired with ideas for the mural. “It kind of just came to me, believe it or not,” Shields said. “I didn’t really have to think about it.” Shields said the offering the Maidu woman is giving viewers is symbolic of what horses give us as well as a welcome to anyone entering the city of Auburn. The mural is made up of 16 panels, which each took about a week to paint. After the panels were painted Shields and his assistant, Michael Mikolon, installed and made slight changes to the colors of the mural. Shields said the mural was finished last year, but installation was completed Tuesday. Bernie Schroeder, director of the Public Works Department in Auburn, said City Council approved the mural in 2007. The wall is owned by the California Department of Transportation, so the city had to obtain a permit before the mural could be erected. The wall is an ideal place for this type of artwork, Schroeder said. “I think in a general sense it is a location that has a lot of visibility to motorists, and it is a canvas and a place that was available,” she said. “It was a willingness of the Elks and Caltrans through an encroachment permit. From a city standpoint the visibility was a high point.” Sue Dings, Auburn Arts Commission chairwoman, said the call to artists for the mural was sent out in October 2006, and seven proposals were submitted. The theme of horses is central to the Auburn area, Dings said. “There are a lot of people who are interested in horses, who have horses, in the area, and it was a big part of California’s history,” Dings said. Dings said Shields’ ideas for the mural fit perfectly with the theme of horses in Auburn. “We just liked his style, and we thought his interpretation of the theme was the best, and I particularly like the colors,” she said. “I thought it would fit into the landscape very well.” The finished mural is just what Dings was hoping for, she said. “It makes an ugly wall beautiful, and it makes Auburn special, especially coming off (Interstate) 80 and Highway 49,” Dings said. “It shows Auburn cares about beautiful things.” Shields said he used model horses and photographs to capture the images in the mural, as well as modeling a caveman child after his son and two Tevis Cup riders after his wife and other son. It’s important to preserve art for future generations, Shields said. “The things that last from culture to culture are usually something artistic,” he said. “This day and age, when it’s all kind of disappearing, it’s nice to know that the city is involved with it and values it. Honestly, I hope it’s kind of like a welcoming image to say, ‘Here you are, we are a kind and welcoming place.’ It’s a kind of nice little doorway to the city.” Vacaville resident Shawn Reynolds said it’s not a bad idea for Auburn to spruce itself up with the artwork, but the city could also have worked with an already existing landmark. “I just think with Auburn … being a gateway to the major metropolitans, I think it would be a good thing to boost the image of Auburn,” Reynolds said. Vacaville resident Brenda Smith said she thinks the money used to pay for the mural could have been spent in a different way. “They could have put the money toward something a little better, something a little more family-oriented,” Smith said. “I’m a mom; I’d do something for children.” Shields said he’s happy to leave an artistic mark in Auburn before he moves to Southern California in the near future. “This is kind of a nice little send-off,” Shields said. “I hope everybody likes it and understands what it is. If not, just look at it and enjoy.” Reach Bridget Jones at