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Paint the Town

Walk around Petaluma, and you’ll come across one of the city’s many murals — like the Sonoma County landscape at Steamer Landing Park or the five-story abstract mural at the Phoenix Theater.

These murals and others are the work of talented local artists Ryan Petersen and Ricky Watts. The native Petalumans have spent decades beautifying locations around the world as well as close to home.

“I started painting murals when I was four years old,” jokes Petersen. “I ran out of paper and started drawing on the walls.”

Watts turned his adolescent years creating graffiti art into large-scale murals that transform public walls into massive canvases. “I’ve done a lot of projects, but I feel like it’s still just the beginning,” he says. “There’s so much more I want to do in my career.”

But for the artists, it’s also about giving back to the community. “I get locals who will change their route to work to check out a mural I’m painting,” says Petersen. “People will come by and even help paint.”

Petaluma loves visitors! As proof, native Petaluman and artist Maxfield Bala has created a massive, 50-foot-wide mural located off of Highway 101 on Petaluma Blvd. S., that shouts “Welcome to Petaluma.” Bala drew inspiration from vintage postcards, showcasing local iconography such as the historic clock tower and the Petaluma Historical Library & Museum while the larger-than-life chicken represents the city’s former reputation as the “World’s Egg Basket.”

Bala has produced public murals and art installations around the world, but the pieces he creates for Petaluma are particularly special to him.

“Bottom line, I love creating art,” says Bala. “Being able to paint murals in my hometown, it’s like giving the city a gift.”

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