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Buying into the Mural Trap

By   /   November 19, 2012  /   5 Comments

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A pied piper  enters town with a bucket of brushes, a trunk full of partial cans of paint and a pitch to change the town with murals. We don’t know where this stranger comes from, but he has a Canadian Accent as do all these guys. What starts as a couple of cute brightly painted  drawings on the walls on old abandoned stores, soon if you don’t watch it turns into, a major government project. Its great for the chosen few that are paid by the local governments as it becomes the driving patron of the arts.

We in Twentynine Palms are all to familiar with this scenario, we’ve lived it. What begins as an artist colony attempt to redevelop an area through “art,” soon spirals into government intervention, regulations and denying property owners their rights. Soon government is telling you what content is acceptable. Government soon wants to control the message.  Nothing good comes from governments becoming patrons of the arts.

Muralist Dan Louden, 52, has painted murals at the office buildings in Needles, California. With motels and restaurants shuttered, the stretch of sun-baked Route 66 has seen better days. But thanks to Louden, along Needles main drag, bright, colorful murals have Elvis, space aliens and leathered up bikers all paying homage to road of roads, Route 66. (Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times/MCT)

We would like to welcome another poor desert town into the fold. Needles has started in earnest a mural project.

A couple of years ago Dan Louden left his family stuck in a Kingman Motel and went west to seek his artistic fortune. Arriving in Needles, Louden soon was painting gaudy bright cartoons on the walls of local businesses to make ends meet. It should have stopped there, but that is when government and busybodies get involved.

Soon the Needles Economic Development Corp. (NEDC) was sponsoring a grant program for additional murals in the city focused along the Route 66 Corridor.

NEDC plans to continue working with Dan Louden as his schedule allows; Louden has painted all the murals in the city to date. They also are interested to see work of other artists with experience painting murals.

This is a small, $6,000 grant program; NEDC plans to fund 10 murals.

New map to direct viewers to Needles’ varied display of colorful murals


NEEDLES — Robin Morrow hasn’t ever created a map before but she decided to take on the challenge of creating a mural map for the Needles Economic Development Corporation. While the experience has been trying at times, it has turned out to be a worthwhile endeavor.

Morrow recently completed creating a map displaying where all the murals in the city are located. A smaller version of the map will be printed and made available to tourists.

Morrow said she’s loved being able to come to Needles and to meet many of the residents as she’s worked on this project. Everyone has been so nice to her, she continued.

Morrow was selected as the new muralist by the NEDC during the spring. Getting a new muralist is part of the NEDC’s idea of capitalizing on the existing murals and to expand on that idea.

via More in Needles Desert Star: Local.


Are you starting to see a pattern here? What starts as one man’s way of making ends meet, has now become the supposed salvation to a dying town along old Route 66.

I’m all for individual expression of art and a guy or gal making a buck any way they can. What I get concerned about is things like this bring out the self important in a community. You soon have a committee of these self important telling folks what can be painted and where they can paint them. If they can not get their way they will turn to government and then by ordinance and regulation take over and destroy the free expression of art and the free use of private property.

We hope that  Needles does not follow Twentynine Palms as an example.

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  • Published: 2 years ago on November 19, 2012
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  • Last Modified: November 19, 2012 @ 7:47 am
  • Filed Under: Needles, News

About the author

Dan OBrien


Cactus Thorns has been online in one form or the other since 2001. What started as a personal blog documenting the corruption and lack of Due Process of the 29 Palms Community Development Department has turned into over these many years into a hugely popular Independent Alternative News Media Outlet. We have partnered with other media including The Desert Star Weekly, Joshua Tree Star, other blogs, indie media and an incredible staff of volunteer Reporters, Commentators and Opinion Makers to create one of the most read, honest and dependable alternative to the Local traditional Media services in the country. Thanks to you the reader we are in the 5% of most read sites in the World.


  1. Dean M Gray says:

    Story reminded me of the fine mural in Yucca Valley by Wanda Stadum on what used to be the Water Canyon Coffee Company depicting the historic cattle drive on Water Canyon. Now painted over in the name of “progress” it is just another faded memory of something good that was lost

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