City Beat

Arena artwork will be homage to former Sacramento mayor

Long before Chris Hansen, Anaheim or Kevin Johnson got involved, the late Sacramento Mayor Joe Serna Jr. presided over a City Hall that fought a close battle to keep the Kings in town.

It was 1997, and a deeply divided City Council was arguing over whether to loan the franchise $73 million. The Kings were threatening to leave if they didn’t get the cash, and Serna delivered a 5-4 vote of approval.

You have to wonder what Serna would think if he stood at the corner of Seventh and K streets today.

So it seems appropriate that near that corner, inside the ever-evolving Golden 1 Center, an enormous mural is planned for what is now a blank wall. The mural will be the work of one of the city’s most revered art collectives, the Royal Chicano Air Force, of which Serna was a member.

It’s also appropriate that the man who engineered the mural’s inclusion inside the arena is Sacramento County Supervisor Phil Serna, Joe Serna’s son.

The younger Serna was standing on a dusty mezzanine inside Golden 1 Center on Thursday, surveying the 50-foot canvas that will be painted by an arts group that helped shape his career. He reminisced about days helping RCAF members and his father assemble silk-screen political lawn signs at the family home in Curtis Park, of crafting pottery at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church near Southside Park, and of making artistic masks for Dia de los Muertos with the other “RCAF brats.”

“The genesis of political activity for my family is rooted in the United Farm Workers and RCAF,” he said. “RCAF became who they are by marrying their artwork with their activism. And they helped raise me.”

RCAF was founded in 1970 at what was then California State College, Sacramento, by artists Esteban Villa and Jose Montoya. The group’s mission is to promote Latino artists, art and culture; to instill a sense of activism; and to support the work of Cesar Chavez and the UFW.

Their mural will complement another large work they completed in 1977 on the side of a parking garage at the other end of the arena called “Metamorphosis.” An overhaul of that mural and the installation of the new work will be funded by money Serna identified, largely from a tobacco litigation settlement secured by the county. The new mural will likely be completed by the 2017-18 NBA season.

Serna’s dad wasn’t an artist. But he was an activist who rose to become one of his city’s most admired political leaders. The mural inside Golden 1 Center will pay homage to Serna and the culture of political activism that’s ingrained in this city.

“To me, it’s just a great legacy piece,” Serna said. “It’s a tremendous acknowledgment of the contribution RCAF made to this community.”

Kings President Chris Granger said his organization not only welcomed the mural idea, it “demanded it.” Art will figure prominently into Golden 1 Center, from an $8 million Jeff Koons sculpture in the public plaza, to large installations by local artists Gale Hart and Bryan Valenzuela.

“This building will be reflective of us,” Granger said. “It will amplify the best of Sacramento.”