Mural celebrates community’s history and LGBT legacy
Wells Fargo’s first outdoor mural celebrating LGBT pioneers showcases a high school band that made pride parade history.
Eric Beall never considered himself a diversity pioneer as a high school student in 2002, and he had no way of knowing he was about to play a role in making history.
When Beall and his fellow marching band members of Palm Springs High School Spirit of the Sands donned their uniforms that sunny Sunday on Nov. 10, 2002, and played for a crowd lining the streets of Palm Springs, California, they became the first high school marching band in the nation to perform in a gay pride parade.
Now the band has been immortalized in a mural outside a Wells Fargo bank branch in Palm Springs. It is one of 2,400 murals installed nationwide as part of Wells Fargo’s Community Mural Program, and the program’s first outdoor mural celebrating LGBT history.
Along with the band picture, the mural pays homage to the city’s LGBT community with photos of a local pride event, and magazine covers of early LGBT publications. Additional photos of early Palm Springs capture the city’s unique history and geography, while the rainbow flag is the visual element that ties the mural together.
“When we were doing some renovations of the branch more than a year ago, we saw the wall outside the branch — and knowing Palm Springs’ long history of pride events — we were extremely excited about the opportunity to create our first outdoor LGBT-themed history mural,” said Beth Currie, head of the Community Mural Program.
The Palm Springs mural marks the company’s eighth LGBT-themed mural design, with additional projects located inside the following Wells Fargo branches: Castro branch in San Francisco; West Hollywood branch in West Hollywood, California; Capitol Hill branch in Seattle; Chelsea branch in New York City; DeSoto branch in Washington, D.C.; Hillcrest branch in San Diego; and Wilton Manors branch in Wilton Manors, Florida.
‘History is the future of our students’
As part of the outdoor mural dedication — which featured performances by the Spirit of the Sands and the Palm Springs Gay Men’s Chorus — Wells Fargo presented $1,000 grants to the Spirit of the Sands, Greater Palm Springs Pride, the Palm Springs Historical Society, the Boys & Girls Club of Palm Springs, and the Gay Men’s Chorus.
“I truly believe that history is the future of our students, and I think one of the things that has happened is that we don’t emphasize history enough,” said Brian Ingelson, director of the award-winning bands at Palm Springs High School, including Spirit of the Sands’ historic parade performance. “I think if we do, we’ll find more common bonds that bring us together as communities.”
Telling the mural’s story
Melanie Tobin, the Community Mural Program’s lead researcher, worked with the Palm Springs Historical Society, Greater Palm Springs Pride, the Los Angeles Public Library, and local photographers and historians to compile the imagery used by Community Mural Program designer Anne Marie Lapitan to tell the mural’s visual story.
Jeri Vogelsang, director of the Palm Springs Historical Society, welcomed the chance to share some of the more than 40,000 images the society has collected since its founding in 1955. The Wells Fargo grant will support preservation of the imagery at the Society’s research center in the Welwood Murray Memorial Library.
“When Wells Fargo told us about the mural project, we were just thrilled,” Vogelsang said. “We have a lot of murals in Palm Springs, but this one was beautiful, and professionally and tastefully done. We’re glad anytime we can share the history of our city, and doubly happy to do that where our photos can be seen in public like this.”
Ron deHarte, president of Greater Palm Springs Pride, said he is happy that the community’s diversity can be seen in the mural.
“The mural showcases the history and diversity of the Palm Springs community, which everybody is so proud of,” deHarte said. “When you have a high school band marching in a pride parade, it truly does help raise awareness within youth and break down barriers against bullying. This message reaches not only youth participating, but LGBTQ-allied youths and other supporters. Today, it’s a badge of honor for students to be in the parade.”
Ingelson echoed deHarte’s sentiments.
“Being part of this mural has a great impact on our students,” he said, “and I certainly appreciate what Wells Fargo is doing to ensure that moment, and other elements of Palm Springs history, are preserved.”
Looking up at the mural for the first time, and reading about his band’s accomplishments in the mural key on the building that explains each image, Beall finally realized the history-making role he had played.
“Back then I was in high school, and didn’t know the impact it was going to have,” Beall said. “Coming full circle as an adult — and a music teacher myself today in the school district — when I drive by and see our band on the mural here, I know I was part of a historic moment, and the current and future members of the band will now know they are part of a legacy of pride, too.”