209 resident Joel Aguilar was raised in Livingston and went to high school in the rural Central Valley town — and now, he’s made history there.
Since graduating from Stanislaus State in 2015, Aguilar has become an accomplished artist in the area and in November completed his hometown’s first-ever mural. Titled “The Heart of Livingston,” the months-long endeavor celebrates the city’s history and agricultural roots with a blast of color. Now, visitors to the Livingston Historic Museum are greeted by Aguilar’s expansive artwork and will be for years to come.
“I feel so honored,” Aguilar said. “I feel like I’ve left a part of me in this town for a good while.”
Aguilar graduated from Livingston High School in 2010, and from there went on to study at the California State Summer School for the arts before attending Stanislaus State. He became interested in art at a young age, he said, and that curiosity led him to ultimately make his way through school — with plenty of doodles along the way — and graduate with an art degree. His passion for all things artistic led him to Italy, where he studied abroad and found inspiration from the country’s architecture and Renaissance artwork.
Aguilar describes his art style as contemporary, but in creating different commissions for friends, family and customers throughout his career has found himself to be a “jack of all trades” when it comes to what he’s able to create.
This versatility and a desire to collaborate with his community led Aguilar to reach out to various cities, including Turlock, Livingston, Modesto and Merced, to see if he could work with officials to create murals for them. His hometown of Livingston was the only city that expressed interest, he said, and the rest fell into place.
Aguilar took input from different City of Livingston leaders when designing “The Heart of Livingston,” incorporating all of their ideas into one design. The mural features an anatomical heart flocked by monarch butterflies, agricultural fields and a variety of bright, colorful flowers. Above that, the eye is immediately drawn to postcards depicting some of Livingston’s most memorable monuments and buildings, which are propped in front of a bright blue sky. Also making an appearance in the mural is Dr. David Livingstone — a British explorer of Africa and international celebrity of the late 1800s for which the town was named for.
Aguilar had access to the museum when designing the mural, he said, and tried to tell the town’s story on a single wall, working from August to November of 2019 to complete the job. The experience of painting his hometown’s first mural is one Aguilar will never forget, he said. It’s now a historical landmark protected by not just the law, but plenty of anti-graffiti spray.
“It’s been a pleasure to work with the City of Livingston,” he said. “They really believed in me and let me go through my art journey to get that wall done.”
Aguilar’s brushstrokes aren’t just at the museum, either. His artwork can be found other places throughout Livingston, like on utility boxes the City gave him the go-ahead to spruce up, and even throughout the 209. He brought an old bus at Dutch Hollow Farms in Modesto to life with a pumpkin-themed mural and designed wall art for Blaker Brewing’s new Atwater location, The Tarmac. Mural commissions, logo designs and other opportunities keep popping up for the young artist, and he doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon.
“My favorite part about it all is that I’m finally doing something that I love. I enjoy being able to just be creative. To implement that within the community? That’s amazing,” Aguilar said.
Aguilar can be contacted via Instagram, @gamut_92, or through his website, www.joelaguilarte.com.