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Locale's new spoon mural offers hands-on experience for visually impaired

Art is meant to be enjoyed and shared, but sometimes that is easier said than done. 

A new 3D mural from local artists Heather Laganelli and Deidre Hathor will offer a unique artistic experience for the visually impaired.

The piece, installed in a hallway in the back dining area of Laganelli's restaurant, Locale Farm to Table, features nearly 800 spoons in different designs and sizes. In an array of colors that would shame a rainbow — pistachio, Christmas red, persimmon, evergreen, marshmallow — each was designed, painted or hand-dipped by Laganelli, Hathor or Hathor's apprentices Jessica Bilman and Val Mclemore.

"We really used the color wheel," Bilman said.

Lisa Hicks, a local artist who specializes in miniature designs, will also have some secret additions to some spoons in the piece.

Braille labels, with color names and additional messages, are being added by a team from the Valley Center for the Blind, whose office in the former Bakersfield Californian building is a short walk away from the 18th Street eatery.

Shellena Heber, the center's executive director, said it was exciting to "have people in the community approach us and want to create something that has access for people who are blind or low vision."

"It's just been so rewarding to all work together, to make something that is truly inclusive for our community."

This is not the first art piece for the restaurant, which has its own mural alley, a back wall covered with public art that is rotated out with new pieces every four to six months. 

It was when Hathor, along with boyfriend Brandon Thompson and students from their Artists Seeking Knowledge class, was working on the latest murals in the alley that the conversation came around to the hallway. After discussing a number of ideas, Laganelli and Hathor both agreed they wanted to try something ambitious.

"I'm a big envelope pusher and she is, too," Hathor said.

Using recycled materials also intrigued the pair. Although some spoons were purchased, most were donated thanks to a community call for donations. Mike Connery, a customer who's been coming to the restaurant since it was Union Station Deli before Laganelli took over, donated silver spoons that his father had collected.

Chef Jason Wiedmann, who along with working at Locale also studied art, contributed to the project as well.

"I thought it was a good cause. Art is close to my heart," he said of his donation of three plating spoons plucked right from his knife bag.

"Plating spoons are always ornate," he said. "I'm a spoon nerd, been collecting them since I became a chef."

The mural has been a work in progress and underwent a quality control test when Locale hosted an event for The Playful Space and the young guests took the hands-on approach.

Hathor and Laganelli said they had plenty of trial and error in getting the spoons to stay in place. 

"We tried six different glues, three types of Gorilla glue," Hathor said. "You know what worked? Nail glue."

So just like that acrylic set your friend is rocking, these mounted spoons should hold up to wear and tear, which is the goal of the piece. People will be able to feel the textures and shapes, and those who can read Braille will have an additional experience.

The unveiling on Thursday will also include additional ways for visitors to engage with the piece using other senses, the pair said. 

Beyond this project, the artists have other ideas for more public art and collaborations with other local nonprofits to help spread awareness in the community.

"I have big dreams," Laganelli said.

"And my dreams are attached to your dreams," Hathor added.

Heber said she is thrilled that this mural can help get the word out about the resources the center can provide for those with vision issues.

"In general, we should all be aware of what type of services exist so when the time comes for the people we love who need this, we know what is available.

"We can solve a whole lot of problems but we can’t if no one knows we exist."

For more information on the center, visit valleycenterfortheblind.org or call 661-865-5115.

Stefani Dias can be reached at 661-395-7488. Follow her on Twitter: @realstefanidias.