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SELMA – It’s been nine years since a first mural was installed in Selma. Back then, retired dance teacher Vicki Filgas Trevino said she was motivated to coordinate the effort it took to fund the murals and find artists interested in tackling such large projects as a means to beautify Selma.

“I believe in the magic of murals,” Trevino said in a prior interview. “We’ve seen this community turn around since our first mural.”

The latest installment is Ezequiel Lee Orona’s “The Tree of Life” which has been painted on the northern wall of Selma’s Pet Clinic operated by veterinarian Sukhwinder Singh Chugh.

“The title came to me when I was doing it. It’s called ‘The Tree of Life’ and that’s appropriate because it comes from the earth and gives life. I was thinking of how we were given the Garden of Eden. I think of the planet as that garden and we’ve been destroying it. Now, we’re starting in on the animals. If they go, we’re going to go right behind them. It’s up to us since we were put in charge of that.”

The Selma District Chamber of Commerce is hosting a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 10 a.m. Feb. 6 at 1843 W. Front St. for this latest mural.

Orona’s artwork has previously been displayed in town in a 2016 art exhibit at the Selma Arts Center with Juan Ybarra. Before that, he’d painted murals in Fresno alongside well-known Fresno Chicano artist Ernesto Palomino.

This latest mural was created in an effort to remind viewers that more and more animals are becoming extinct around the globe.

“The whole idea is to convey the message of the endangered species. It took a lot of research at the library just to get the knowledge of what specific animals were on the endangered species lists. There are hundreds of them.”

Orona hopes any who care about the planet, and animals especially, think about mankind’s role in that reality and what they can do to prevent even more animals from disappearing altogether.

“And it’s not only big mammals, but all sorts of different animals all over the world that are on the verge of extinction. I had to pick so I picked the big cats, rhinos, elephants and giraffes. People don’t think of the giraffes of being endangered, but they are. They’re some of the most beautiful creatures that roam the earth.”

It took Orona just a little over a month to complete the mural. He had the help of his grandson and fellow artist, Abel Orona.

Since the Oronas live in Las Vegas, they stayed a local hotel and sampled “every Mexican restaurant in town and Bev Cho brought us Thanksgiving dinner. She’s just beautiful and watched over us.”

Several murals have already been painted around town. Selma’s first mural was designed by Fresno artist Ernesto Palomino and painted by Franciso Vargas on the Robertson Guerra building at 1948 High St. in 2010. It depicts the town’s history.

A second is entitled, “No Separations - The Lotus and the Dove” and was designed and painted by Ramiro Martinez on High Street in 2014.

In 2015, two more murals were installed. The first was “La Boca” which was painted by Ariel “Birdie” Goodman on the Cress family’s building along Rose Avenue, across from Lincoln Park.

A mural featuring John Cho’s Lion Dancers was painted by Joshua Wigger and Robert Amador on one wall of the family’s Front Street restaurant, Cho’s Kitchen, also in 2015.

“Children Dream,” was also painted by Goodman and Michael Howe on the north wall of the former Safeway building on Arrants Street in 2016.

Some local businesses have added smaller scale mural paintings to their buildings around town as well.

While they were painting, Orona said passersby and vet clinic customers usually gave them shows of support. But since art is subjective, he realizes this particular work may not be some viewers’ favorite style of art and that’s okay, he said.

“They’d give a thumbs-up and a honk of support, but it was a monster wall. It took every bit of strength we had since it was a big job. If people like it, fine. I know what we went in there to do and the purpose, and that’s the most important thing.”

Orona said he thinks the murals throughout the town add to Selma and that other communities should follow that example.

“It looks beautiful. It elevates the town. The people behind the work and those who okayed the work looked ahead to see this would be good for the city. It brings a freedom of thought to walk around and look at the art. It can also be very inspiring for the students in the community.”

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