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Rebirth mural instills community pride

Hummingbirds are captured in flight, the vibrance of their wings stilled as the mind’s eye imagines them zipping from red flower to green vine, seeking the sustenance of nectar. Artist Nicole Ponsler brought it all to life about a decade ago in her 55- by 16-foot masterpiece mural brushed onto the side of an Indio market. 


Rebirth is a vivid, nature-themed painting borne from colors brilliantly displayed at the Quick & Easy Market on Miles Avenue facing Kings Street. The mural got its name from Ponsler’s desire to bring a renewed sense of pride to the community. Originally from Indiana, she shared that creating Rebirth was the most rewarding project she’s ever done, a feeling she derived from the community’s response to her work.


“One day, a woman drove up and said to me… ‘We get this? We get to have this?’” Ponsler said. “She had such joy and pride; it wasn’t even done yet!”


The Rebirth mural was a three-month endeavor that began with elements specific to Indio, and Ponsler chose to focus on flowers and birds that reflect the natural environment. The red flower, a Mexican bird of paradise, is synonymous with the region, and hummingbirds speak to a universal audience, Ponsler relayed, adding that hummingbirds have spiritual and symbolic meaning to many different cultures. 


The City of Indio selected Ponsler in 2013 to create the mural as part of the Art in Public Places (APP) program, a way to finance art projects within city limits. APP is intended to “promote the general welfare of the public through the acquisition and installation of the public artwork for the betterment of a community.” 


“All my work is about the relationship with the community, expressions of joy and connectivity, and a reminder for us about how important that connection is,” she said. “I wanted to give the residents something to have a sense of pride in within their community.”


The immediacy of connection to people is what’s important to Ponsler versus gallery work. “I want to connect with Joe Schmo. I enjoy the give and take and back and forth. That type of local, personal response is what is so rewarding and has meaning for me.” Ponsler said she loved working in the City of Indio environment, describing it as a personal growth experience. “I lived in an apartment across the street. I took my days off and went to places like the Salton Sea with new friends I had made,” Ponsler said. “It’s important to me to become immersed in the community to be able to represent the place, the character and the culture.”