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Outdoor art gallery salutes agriculture

It began as a simple way to attract people to a historic town in Tulare County that had slipped under the radar in recent years.



It began as a simple way to attract people to a historic town in Tulare County that had slipped under the radar in recent years. But what the Exeter mural project turned into was far more than anyone could have expected. In this San Joaquin Valley town, you'll find one of the country's biggest and most elaborate depictions of agriculture.

Exeter is a serene town, with a population topping out at around 9,400 people. The city's mural project began in 1996, when Visalia resident Colleen Mitchell-Veyna and Morgan McCall painted a giant masterpiece. They collaborated on a piece called "Orange Harvest." Nearly 33 feet tall and 100 feet long, the mural depicted a scene of citrus packers in the 1930s. The mural had a bigger effect than just covering what was an eyesore--the building it was painted on, was lost to fires five years ago--it also helped to bolster community pride after a huge freeze hit area citrus groves.

Today, there are more than 20 murals in the downtown area, with more planned in the future. The paintings cover everything from the importance railroads played in the development to a tribute to Native Americans who first settled in the area. But the main focus of most of the murals reflects the No. 1 enterprise in the area--agriculture. Wheat harvesting, fruit packing and driving cattle are some of the main focuses of the murals. There's even a mural of a map depicting the murals themselves.

And the best news---this outdoor gallery keeps growing, so by the time you visit Exeter, don't be surprised if you don't see a few more murals.

For more information, visit www.exeterchamber.com.


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