Despite recent business closings Callao began getting a shot of revitalization Friday as muralist Melanie Van Latum started work on the first of seven murals that will brighten the town.
Van Latum was contracted to do the work as part of the Callao Revitalization Project, which, when completed will give town a more pleasant appearance and provide a better experience for people who walk through it, tourist and otherwise.
Van Latum started with work on David Fine’s building at the traffic light. On the side facing Route 360 as it comes into Callao, Van Latum is painting a large “Welcome to Callao” sign that will welcome arrivals not only to Callao (“The Hometown”) but the Northern Neck as well.
Montross artist Phillip McKenney is assisting her; they met when Van Latum painted the murals that now brighten Montross.
In addition to Fine’s building, Van Latum will paint two murals on the Callao Supermarket, two on the old movie house (most recently Mosaics) and one on the bakery which will face the Heathsville side of town.
Van Latum said Sunday that the murals will depict the essence of Callao with particular attention to crabs and crab pots.
Van Latum is from Las Vegas from where she and her husband run her art business. She said she has been painting murals for 22 years. She does other paintings, too, and spent eight years as an artist for the television show “South Park.” In addition to murals, Van Latum specializes in 3-D street painting, the ones that look like a hole you could fall into.
Van Latum said she hopes to have all the murals done in the next couple of weeks but if she doesn’t, she’ll be back in September to finish.
Van Latum works with bright colors. “When I was a kid, I really loved color,” she said and that love was what led her into becoming an artist.
Van Latum uses a special acrylic pain designed for outdoor use and covers her murals with a protective coat of varnish when they are completed. She said the murals will remain bright and attractive for at least 20 years.