Vialpando paints jaguar mural


Valencia High School has its first prominently displayed school mascot to celebrate school pride. A jaguar mural has been painted on the village of Bosque Farms’ water tank about a quarter mile north of South Bosque Loop on the west side of NM 47.

Deborah Fox-News-Bulletin photo: The Valencia High School jaguar mascot is proudly displayed on the village of Bosque Farms water tank a quarter mile north of South Bosque Loop on the west side of NM 47.

Charles Tabet, president of the Los Lunas Board of Education, thought it would be fitting to have the school represented on the east side of the river, since Los Lunas High School is represented on the west side of the Rio Grande.

“I did this, not as a board member, but just as an individual,” Tabet said.

Local custom graphics business, Vialpando Signs, owned by Los Lunas Mayor Robert Vialpando was commissioned for the $5,000 project.

Tabet had spoken with Los Lunas Schools Superintendent Bernard Saiz and then approached the Bosque Farms Village Council about allowing the school logo to be painted on its water tank.

He worked with the council, high school students and officials to decide on a design. The council wanted the mural to somehow include all the schools that feed into the high school.

Valencia High School is represented on the northeast face of the tower, and several schools are represented on the south face, including Bosque Farms, Peralta, Valencia, Desert View and Tomé elementary schools, as well as Valencia Middle School.

“The students are very pleased,” Tabet said.

The mural took three weeks to complete and was painted by Vialpando and his son, Demetrio Vialpando.

Demetrio is an actor, and works for Cutter Aviation in Albuquerque, but helps his father on some of the larger projects.

In 1994, Vialpando single-handedly painted the Los Lunas High School tiger mascot on the village water tank next to Interstate 25.

“At first, I was a little hesitant, because of the height and how big it was,” Vialpando said of the Tiger tank. “But then I put it together in my mind how I would accomplish it. I’m glad I did it, being from Los Lunas. Having that opportunity was really great. I’m pretty proud that it came out alright.”

The mayor said a company in Albuquerque had been hired to create the tiger mural design for the village water tower. It was drawn on a small piece of cardboard, and was sitting at the front desk of City Hall when former utility director, Betty Behrend saw it and called Vialpando, because she thought he might be interested in the project.

A friend who works for a billboard company in Albuquerque helped him figure out how to enlarge the design and paint it on the huge tank.

The company had a large wall they could project the design onto, then four-foot sections of paper were secured to it. Holes were burnt along the outline of the image, around the nose, eyes and other features, Vialpando said.

He rented scaffolding to set up around the tower, and secured the sections of paper to the tank. Using a sock filled with powdered chalk, he hit the holes to mark them, then drew the design, hole-to-hole, with a felt marker. From there, he painted in the colors.

“It was a little challenging, because she didn’t draw it first,” he said. “She just burnt the little holes, so I had to visualize it just from the little holes burnt into the pattern.”

The stripes around the circumference were painted free-hand.

It took him about three months to paint both sides of the tower.

The jaguar mascot was done by the same method, but the two men finished it in far less time.

They rented a scissor lift to reach the top of the tower to get the design drawn, then painted in the colors with an oil-based paint.

“I’ve had a lot of positive comments from citizens and people involved with Valencia High School,” said Vialpando.

About three years ago, he retouched the Los Lunas High School tiger, and painted another tiger mural on a water tank about a mile north from Los Lunas.

He has painted murals on water tanks in Corrales, a big cougar at Monte Vista Elementary School, and the News-Bulletin sign on the side of the old Los Lunas office building.

“I’ve always had a knack for art,” he said. “That’s why I got into sign painting, because of the creativity.”

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