Route 66 News

Mural painter keeps getting work in Needles

Back in April, the Needles Desert Star reported about Dan Louden, who’s been painting murals and brightening the Route 66 town of Needles, Calif.

Today, the Los Angeles Times caught up with him. Since the initial report, Louden and his girlfriend Vicky Bowden have painted a few more walls in town. A slideshow of his work can be seen here.

Susan Alexis, owner of the Wagon Wheel Restaurant in town, was the one who discovered that Louden possessed artistic talent:

When he mentioned it to her while breezing through town earlier this year, she hired him on the spot. Alexis had wanted to paint the restaurant’s side wall ever since noticing how ugly the bank of cinder blocks looked on Google Maps’ street view.

“I just wanted to bring some nostalgia to the building. We have so much history here, but our town doesn’t reflect it,” Alexis said. “Now, everyone around town is talking about the guy.” […]

With work pouring in, they have camped out at the Needles Inn for weeks at a time, working almost every day. It help that he’s affordable — $500 for a mural covering the side of a small building — and fast. Most jobs are wrapped up in a day. When they overheat in the scorching Mojave sun, they take a dip in the Colorado. […]

“It’s certainly brightened up downtown, and hopefully it’ll help bring more tourists in,” said Needles Mayor Edward Paget. “It’s not like this was planned. People are doing it on their own — and they’re being greatly encouraged by both myself and the City Council to improve downtown.”

It appears Louden isn’t finished, either. The county’s fire department may hire him to repaint its fire station in Needles.

Murals have become an increasingly popular way to dress up Route 66 towns, including Cuba, Mo.Tucumcari, N.M.; Atlanta, Ill., Bethany, Okla., and Pontiac, Ill. And an artist also is leading a charge to paint about a dozen murals on Route 66 in Oklahoma.