Dolly Parton mural in Costa Mesa dedicated to frontline healthcare workers

Strut Bar and Club CEO Luke Nero and Costa Mesa Mayor Katrina Foley dedicated the 50-by-20 to the community of frontline healthcare workers across America on March 13.

Costa Mesa’s Strut Bar and Club unveiled a mural of country music icon Dolly Parton on Saturday. The 50-by-20-foot mural will be dedicated to frontline healthcare workers across America and to commemorate Dolly Parton, who donated $1 million to help fund the development of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine.

Club Founder and CEO Luke Nero dedicated the mural to all frontline healthcare workers of America. He intends to bring joy to anybody who comes to visit Strut. 

“The mural is dedicated to all the frontline healthcare workers of America,” Nero said. “I feel like out of any industry in this country, they have been through hell and back and still are going through hell.”    

Nero initially considered a tribute to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died on September 18. Following Ginsburg’s death, Nero reached out to muralists, but after considering the political climate of 2020, he decided to put that idea on hold. 

“I didn't want to go anywhere near politics,” Nero said.

Nero ultimately decided to commemorate Dolly Parton after hearing she donated $1 million to fund Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine development. 

“She transcends gender. She transcends race. She transcends age. She represents the very best of humanity,” Nero said.       

David Gilmore, a Long Beach-based artist, began working on the 50-by-20-foot mural outside the Orange County queer establishment on Feb. 12. From walls and canvases to objects and people, Gilmore has a painton-everything approach. This past Halloween, Gilmore was featured in Vogue for his collaboration with model Heidi Klum. Gilmore delivers what the client wants through his artistic lens.

“The style I normally paint in is typically very pop art, street art, flat and graphic.  This Dolly Parton mural is a throwback to a way I used to paint about 25 years ago,” Gilmore said. 

Nero hired Gilmore to celebrate Pardon’s humanitarian side and give her a “goddess-like” feel. 

“I love creating work that has a heart to it,” said Gilmore. “And the entire spirit of this piece was to be joyous and uplifting.”

Costa Mesa Mayor Katrina Foley expressed her thoughts on the mural and how it represents inclusivity in Costa Mesa. 

“I love that Dolly Parton is on a building in Costa Mesa,” said Foley. “She represents everything that we are all about – inclusivity, diversity and letting people be who they want to be.”

In 2009, Nero moved from New York to Southern California. After nearly ten years of planning parties for LA’s LGBTQ+ community, he spotted an underserved market in Orange County. The Australian native realized there was no place of fun for the queer community in Orange County. Nero was motivated to create an inclusive and fun queer establishment to serve Orange County, so in 2019 he opened Strut Bar and Club on 19th Sstreet in Costa Mesa. 

“I'm serving an underserved market because there simply isn't anywhere for us to go,” said Nero said. “I took that to heart because, when you're Australian and come out, you get to go clubbing or partying when you're 18- years old, and you get to start to use your social muscles. I feel like all these young gay, queer kids in Orange County don't get to do that.”

After operating in Costa Mesa for six months, the COVID-19 pandemic forced Nero to close the club temporarily. He said the closure has been challenging. 

“We still owe over $100,000 in [a] year’s worth of rent, so yeah, it's been mentally challenging for myself, for my team and my staff,” he said. “It was a lot of mental gymnastics to get us to this point.

Strut Bar and Club reopened for business at a limited capacity on March 12. The dance floor will be converted into a lounge, and there will be safety protocols in place. Strut will enforce face masks and temperature checks. For more information about Strut Bar and Club, head to StrutOC.com.

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