Burlingame’s past and present intersect downtown, as a new tile mural pays homage to the community’s history while indulging the modern desire to make a statement on social media.
The Burlingame Historical Society celebrated Friday, July 20, the unveiling of a massive art installation comprised of more than 3,100 tiles on the back of a new building at 240 Lorton Ave.
The project styled in the fashion of a postcard declares “Greetings from Burlingame,” with scenes of local landmarks, points of interest and icons interspersed through the lettering and background artwork.
Historical Society President Jennifer Pfaff praised the 15-foot-tall and 47-foot-wide project which took nearly three years to plan, and two weeks to install.
“I really like that it is not just aesthetically beautiful, but it has a meaning to the city that will be enduring because it tells the story from the past to the present and into the future,” she said.
Historical Society Vice President Russ Cohen shared a similar sentiment, and said the style was crafted with an eye toward making a statement on Instagram, Facebook or other online platforms.
“People love selfies. They love any opportunity to use that camera phone. So we want to have a photo op in Burlingame,” he said.
To accommodate those who enjoy sharing their travels online, Cohen said the a #greetingsfromBurlingame hashtag has been established to more easily search others who have visited the mural.
Source photos used as inspiration for the art further compound the blend of timelines, noted Pfaff, as some images were drawn from the society’s archives while other pictures were taken recently with mobile devices.
Images include the city’s namesake Anson Burlingame, the Kohl Mansion, eucalyptus trees such as those lining El Camino Real, Burlingame High School, past visions of Broadway and a more recent look at Burlingame Avenue, among others.
For his part, mural artist Don Donoughe detailed the exhaustive process by which he and fellow historical society members gathered images and considered how they would work alongside the art and lettering. And while the work was painstaking, he noted the tremendous benefit offered through the completed product.
“It’s really cool to be involved in a project like this because I’ve lived here, raised my family here and bringing this to life was cool because it was really personal to me and because it is my neighborhood,” he said.
Ryan Guibara, director of real estate with the Dewey Land Company, expressed his admiration for the mural.
“I think it is a dynamite piece of public art, and it is a really cool thing to be a part of,” he said.
Guibara’s company redeveloped the 240 Lorton Ave. property, which was formerly the home to RadioShack, into a new commercial building. The company financed the work, donated the space on the building and granted the Historical Society total creative authority with the art’s direction.
A representative from the architecture firm for the project shared her appreciation for the art too.
“I can’t think of any better way to incorporate the surrounding Burlingame culture than by paying tribute to the city’s history. The mural is a wonderful piece that we are happy to have added to the exterior of 240 Lorton, Burlingame’s newest mixed-use development,” job captain Claudia Raygoza said in an email.
For Pfaff, she said she hopes the mural’s presence works as a catalyst for building a sense of place on Lorton Avenue as well as the adjacent Hatch Lane, which officials are hopeful can become a hub of community interest.
Cohen agreed, and said he is optimistic the mural will become an attraction for those visiting Burlingame.
“There are a lot of public buildings like the train station or library that are picturesque, but this is that sort of photo stop on your tour that everyone will want to seek out and take their picture in front of,” he said.
He added an expectation that the pictures taken will age well.
“The design itself is classic in nature so that 20, 30 or 40 years from now it will still be relevant,” he said.
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Note to readers: this article has been amended to include perspective from artist Don Donoughe.