The sounds of spirited mariachi music coming from Pergolina’s storefront resounded along Riverside Drive during the Holiday Open House on December 3, drawing in a large crowd to celebrate the unveiling of a vibrant mural of Our Lady of Guadalupe created by local artist and muralist Paige Peter.
Peter, who started painting murals professionally in her early 20s and specializes in large-scale figurative florals and spiritual icons, says the inspiration behind the piece came from friend and neighbor Annie Potts. “She suggested I look at the history of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which was fascinating,” Peter shares. “I became engrossed with her story, the symbolism and the aesthetics of her image. The color possibilities really resonated with me.”
Peter took the idea of creating a mural to honor Our Lady of Guadalupe, the long-revered symbol of the Catholic Church, to close friend and supporter Paulanna Cuccinello of Pergolina, who in 2019 had showcased Peter’s work in a solo exhibition of floral-inspired pieces entitled “Fleur.” “Paulanna was one of the first people I met when I moved to Toluca Lake. I showed her a piece I was working on, and she said, ‘Give me four more of those and I’ll give you a show!’” Peter recalls. “She is a very gifted judge of art and beauty. We have been bonded ever since.”
Cuccinello found a bare wall at a neighboring store and floated the idea to the store’s owner of displaying a temporary mural on canvas as opposed to a permanent one. The owner loved the idea, and Peter immediately got to work.
Peter unwittingly became a fixture on Riverside Drive throughout October. “As I crouched on my scaffolding, as early as 7 every morning, residents and visitors would walk by and cheer me on,” she says. “A day or two later, I see the same folks walking by checking on my progress. They seemed to be as invested in it as I was. I fed off of their generous energy. It was like performance art!” It took her 31 days to complete the mural.
About a week after the mural debuted to fanfare at the Holiday Open House, on December 12, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, “devoted Catholics from around the community festooned the mural with flowers, and we received wide media coverage from NBC 4, ABC 7 and Telemundo 52,” Peter says.
The mural has since been purchased via auction by Peter’s close friend, honorary Toluca Lake mayor Fritz Coleman. “Our goal was to have someone purchase it and gift it to a worthy enterprise, like a gallery, a church or other public space,” Peter explains, adding that she and Coleman are working to get the mural displayed at St. Monica Academy in Montrose. After the mural finds a home, Peter plans to paint another sometime in the spring. “We consider it a public works project.”
Peter says overall that making the mural was a very “spiritual” experience. “To be able to create this piece outside in the community where it would be displayed, and in the community where I live, that feeling, it made the piece even more organic. I was also left with civic pride in having been able to beautify our little village in some way.”