Whaling Wall Reborn

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Wyland unveils finished mural with ribbon cutting celebration

By Allison Jarrell | LB Indy

Last Thursday, Wyland unveiled what has been a labor of love for him over the last couple months—a Whaling Wall mural in Laguna Beach.

It was an emotional evening as hundreds of friends, supporters and community members gathered to celebrate the completion of the mural with Wyland. The ribbon cutting, which was followed by a performance by local band Common Sense, was held in the parking lot between Wyland’s studio and the Hotel Laguna. Wyland addressed the crowd as the sun set over the ocean, color dancing across the sky.

“My biggest inspiration as an artist is…right over there,” he said, pointing toward the horizon. “We’re so lucky in this community of Laguna Beach to be able to see that.”

Last Thursday’s ribbon cutting celebration, which was followed by a performance by local band Common Sense, was held in the parking lot between Wyland’s studio and the Hotel Laguna.

Wyland surprised residents and visitors to Laguna in July when he began recreating his the mural on canvas in its original location, on the wall adjacent to his gallery and the Hotel Laguna. The new temporary canvas mural spans 131 feet long by 25 feet high. Wyland invited the public to watch as he added three life-sized gray whales, as well as features from local reefs, giant kelp, bottlenose dolphins, sea lions, garibaldi and other local coastal marine life.

Laguna developer Mo Honarkar, whose company is working to restore and reopen the Hotel Laguna, listens to Wyland talk about their partnership to recreate the mural during last Thursday’s ribbon cutting.

Originally painted in 1981, the 4,000-square-foot mural launched the artist’s famed series of 100 life-sized marine life murals in cities around the world before it was subsequently painted over by the former property owner. After it was whitewashed, Wyland recreated a smaller version of the mural in tile on the side of his beachfront home studio.

Wyland recalled the anger in the community over the whitewashing and having to look at the “white peeling wall” for years, and credited Laguna developer Mo Honarkar for having the “vision to restore this beautiful landmark,” referring to his acquisition of the Hotel Laguna earlier this year. Wyland said he approached Honarkar about recreating the mural and was given the green light to do so.

“I’ve known [Mo] for a little while. He’s genuine, he’s the real deal, and his vision for what he wants to do here is going to be great for Laguna Beach,” Wyland said to the crowd. “I really dedicate this wall to Mo and his vision for restoring our hotel that we all love.

“I know there’s always a lot of politics, but I believe in this guy and I think everybody I talk to at the city does, too. So the time to support him is now,” Wyland implored.

: Mayor Bob Whalen thanked Wyland for coming back and revisiting the location of his first whaling wall. “It means a lot to us as a community,” he said. “We couldn’t be happier to have you back in town and doing your thing.”

Back in July, Wyland’s artistic endeavor was unveiled just days after plans for the Hotel Laguna were discussed by the Laguna Beach City Council. At a July Council meeting, Honarkar’s Laguna Beach Company received an agreement from the Council that outlines the review of six major development projects, including the renovation and reopening of Hotel Laguna.

Laguna Beach Company plans to submit an application for the potential redevelopment of the central bluffs from Hotel Laguna to Legion Street. City staffers expect this project will include a public pathway that will connect Main Beach to Brown’s Park.

Laguna Beach Company also plans to request a new conditional use permit and other approvals for the rehabilitation and reopening of Hotel Laguna. Honarkar is trying to get the hotel placed on National Register of Historic Places and wants to get the project certified as sustainable under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system.

Honarkar thanked Wyland at the celebration for bringing the community together.

“[I’m] so proud to know you and be your neighbor for many years to come,” Honarkar said.

“My art is a little bit different,” Honarkar added, referring to his work on the hotel. “I’m going to bring that building back to the light. I’m looking forward to that day.”

For more information on Wyland’s art and foundation, visit wyland.com.


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