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History within the Mural

History within the Mural

By Airman 1st Class Tiarra Sibley, Vandenberg Space Force Base

Landsat mural in progress
The Landsat mural in Lompoc, CA created by artist Ann Thompson, in progress. Photo credit: Airman First Class Tiarra Sibley, U.S. Space Force
The Landsat mural in Lompoc, CA created by artist Ann Thompson, in progress. Photo credit: Airman First Class Tiarra Sibley, U.S. Space Force

July 22, 2021 • The city of Lompoc is gaining a new mural located at the intersection of West Ocean Blvd. and North I Street  to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Landsat. The mural is being painted by the Lompoc Mural Society’s curator, Ann Thompson.

“I didn’t expect to get this,” said Thompson. “I had never done something like this before. I’ve done huge murals and huge projects, but something like this, this is my first time for something this big.”

In order to be considered for this  job, she had to compete against other artists in this area, some of them she had known  for many years prior to this. Thompson never thought that she would get such an opportunity to design such an important and huge project  such as an anniversary mural of Landsat.

In 1965, director of the U.S. Geological Survey, William Pecora, proposed the idea of a remote sensing satellite program to obtain facts about the natural resources of earth. This would lead to the constructions of the Landsat satellites 1-8 throughout the decades. The satellites were designed to collect information about our planet’s natural resources, including mineral deposits and the condition of forests and farming regions, to monitoring oceanic conditions, detect variations of pollution levels and other ecological changes.

The process to choose an artist was lengthy due to NASA’s careful selection process, one that ensures that they will make the best decision on who will paint the mural.  To begin, the information for the project was advertised to the public for anyone to participate. 13 people from across the United States were chosen by a panel of judges who then provided photos to give ideas to the artists. The panel gave each selectee a certain amount of time create a rough draft of the finished product and, ultimately, narrowed their choices down to three artists. Thompson was surprised to hear that NASA chose her idea to create the 50th anniversary of Landsat mural.

“I was driven to put things on walls and I didn’t even know it,” she laughed. “The first little mural I did I was probably about 3 years old and you know it was with crayon and wallpaper back in the days and, so, that didn’t go over very well.”

Thompson, born and raised in Le Mars, Iowa, a Sioux City area, grew up on a farm and was the second oldest out of 10 siblings. From a very young age she has shown a love and passion for drawing and painting.

Her father, a farmer and also a carpenter to help supplement the income for the family, built the house that she grew up in. In the process, he built a large wall for the kitchen, which turned into a canvas for her.

“Mom had a kitchen wall and couldn’t figure out what to put on it,” she said. “She had kind of given me an okay on a pencil sketch and I said, ‘what if you don’t like it?’ My mom said, ‘don’t worry we will just paint over it.’”

That mural would then stay on her parents’ kitchen wall for 25 years.

She would eventually grow up and move out of her parents ’ home where she would briefly live in Seattle and Alaska with the last move being to Lompoc, Ca , where she has been married to her husband for the past 22 years.

With her first love being murals, her talents would open doors to many opportunities to restore old and create new murals in various cities.

“I always loved painting and I always loved painting big,” Thompson said.

The reactions of the people she has created murals for are what inspires her.

“I always felt like it impacted the mood of a room. You could transform your environment into anything you wanted,” she explained. “I just like the fact that it can be a happy place for someone and I believe that each of us is born with a gift.”

Being a curator for the Lompoc Mural Society, Thompson has met people from all over the world and she is honored that they have traveled here just to see her work.

Some of the murals she has had the opportunity to restore are “The Blacksmith” mural, “Rocket Shoot-off” mural, “Fire Chief” mural, and “The Mural at the Hospital,” all of which are located throughout the city of Lompoc. The average time to finish a mural is between two to four months. Her artistic outlook on life shines through her art.

“When it comes to the murals, I like to think that it gives the community a sense of pride; all of our murals have something to do with the history, so again, a sense of teaching the next generation of what is in the past and how we got where we are,” Thompson said. “I really like to think that it makes it a prettier place to live.”

Further Information:
Midwestern Roots tie Landsat Mural Artist to USGS EROS Center, USGS EROS
+ Lompoc Mural Society

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