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Historic whale makes new splash in Imperial Beach

Project was a collaboration between the City Council, community organizations and local businesses.

The new gray whale mural on the side of Soapy Joe’s Car Wash at the entrance of Imperial Beach welcomes people into the city (Allison Sampite-Montecalvo)

A decades-old city motto has been revived in Imperial Beach with the creation of a large gray whale mural on the side of a local business at the gateway to the city.

“Imperial Beach — a Whale of a City!” was used by non-profit group the Imperial Beach Whalers and Sunset Watchers Society to describe the city in the early ‘70s.

Earlier this year, following the opening of Soapy Joe’s Car Wash in January, the city approached owner Lorens Attisha about commissioning the mural.

The business’ wall previously displayed advertisements for the car wash at 1350 Palm Ave.

“The mural seemed like the perfect way to tie in the ocean-loving feel of Imperial Beach to our Soapy Joe’s Car Wash,” Attisha said. “We pride ourselves not just on our contribution to the environment but the community as well.”

The project was a collaboration between the City Council, community organizations and local businesses.

“The Welcome to Imperial Beach mural … is an excellent example of how we are using art through partnerships with the private sector and non-profits such as the PangeaSeed Foundation to beautify Imperial Beach,” said Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina.

Painted over four days last month, mostly by artist Aaron Glasson, it was funded by Attisha as well as through private donations.

Glasson has public installations around the world, including murals, paintings, illustration, films and interactive installations.

“It was a really fantastic opportunity and honor for me to paint such wonderful creatures at the gateway to Imperial Beach,” Glasson said. “I hope the mural inspires some love and appreciation for the coastal/ocean wildlife of San Diego.”

This is the PangeaSeed Foundation’s second installation of public art in Imperial Beach. The first is on Second Street and Palm Avenue by artist Brian Hebits.

Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina said the mural is part of a larger effort to revitalize the city’s bayfront.

He said the next project will also be an ocean-themed mural, this one on the nearby AT&T building. It will be a partnership between the city, AT&T, 4 Walls International, IB Beautiful and National City-based nonprofit, A Reason to Survive.

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