RIO VISTA — For a small town, Rio Vista packs a lot of charm and history.
That’s what Fire Chief Tom Myers said he discovered after joining Rio Vista’s Fire Department four years ago.
Myers, a Fairfield resident, considers Rio Vista to be “his own” even though it’s not his home town. But he didn’t realize what Rio Vista had to offer until he spent some time there.
“I just like Rio Vista,” he said. “I want to help — it’s got so much charm.”
So Myers came up a seemingly simple idea: Paint the town’s history on its walls. He would start with his workplace, the fire station.
While Rio Vista has other draws, such as the Sacramento River and Foster’s Bighorn, Myers explained it could also become famous for murals, which have been popular in other cities, such as San Francisco and Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
His hope is to paint different aspects of Rio Vista’s history on the blank walls downtown. He thinks about painting the history of Paul Graham Drilling, the (now) infamous sheep and windmills – depicted in a cellphone service TV advertisement – and maybe even the town’s brief encounter with Humphrey the humpback whale.
But for now, he’ll start with the fire station.
Myers consulted several Rio Vista officials and longtime residents about the idea and, he said, they thought it was a good idea. But they didn’t want a mural of anything abstract or generic – they wanted something distinctly Rio Vistan. Myers found that in an old photo at the Rio Vista Foundation.
The photo shows several Rio Vista firefighters from 1933 sitting in fire engines outside the same fire station that stands downtown today.
At the same time Myers had concocted his idea, a flower shop down the street also commissioned a mural to be painted outside their shop. The artist is a Rio Vista native.
“We’ve got local talent – that’s perfect for this,” Myers said.
The artist, Nick Stiles, a California State University Long Beach student, was commissioned to work on the firehouse project. Stiles, who is studying illustration, found the project not only a great opportunity for his career but a chance to highlight the history of his hometown.
“There’s so much history in this town but nobody knows about it,” he said. “It would be great to have a mural that features the history. There’s a lot of riches to this town.”
Stiles will work on painting a 53-foot by 16-foot replica of the 1933 fire station photo when he returns from school in the summer.
Between now and then, Myers hopes to raise about $8,000 to cover the cost of the supplies.
Myers said people can “help make Rio Vista a destination” by buying a firehouse mural T-shirt. The shirts feature a picture mural project and are available for purchase at the fire station, 350 Main St., the Chamber of Commerce, 6 North Front St. or Books Rio V, 207A Main St..
Check or cash donations can be made to the Rio Vista Foundation – Downtown Mural Project and mailed to RVFD, 1 Main St., Rio Vista, CA 94571.
Reach Heather Ah San at 427-6977 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/HeatherMalia.