The Museum Mural
“We believe this is a fine move in the right direction by the Whittier Historical Society, so we congratulate the members for their excellent choice of Dennis McGonagle as the right one to give the old building a new lease on life.” Whittier Daily News
The mural focuses on the first 100 years of the City of Whittier, and includes portraits of such legendary Whittier figures, like Pio Pico, Jonathan and Rebecca Bailey, and Harriet Russell Strong. Also depicted are the Four Bricks, the first commercial buildings in Whittier, rendered in a pastoral landscape framed by the Whittier Hills.
McGonagle studied mural painting at Rio Hondo College with Jerry Romotsky. He earned a bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts at Whittier College and later graduated from Cal State Long Beach with an MFA in painting. McGonagle is known for painting vivid urban landscapes, and the Whittier Museum’s mural exemplifies his style. One section features a bright red 1954 Chevrolet driving down Beverly Boulevard and appears to emerge from the wall. “I wanted something prominent and attention-grabbing for the drive-by-traffic”, McGonagle explained.
How to access the upper reaches of the Museum’s forty-foot high walls initially posed a problem for McGonagle, who ultimately chose to rent a platform lift called a Knuckleboom. “The Knuckleboom is perfect”, McGonagle said, “It’s like a magic carpet ready to transport me to any corner of the wall.”
Assisting on the project was Tyler Kinnaman, who was a student of McGonagle’s in a youth painting class at Whittier College in 1987. “I couldn’t ask for a better assistant”, McGonagle said. “The way we were working, we will definitely be finished by our scheduled completion date of December 15th.”