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December 13, 2019
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New cutout mural to be installed near Watsonville Nature Center

WATSONVILLE—The Watsonville Nature Center will soon be getting a new neighbor, in the form of a 14-foot tall white egret.

“Great White Egret” was designed and created by artist John Cerney of Salinas, who is known for constructing giant mural cutouts and placing them along highways across the U.S.

The Watsonville Nature Center was looking for a way to stand out—the small building is tucked away in the back of Ramsay Park.

“The main goal is to bring attention to the amazing wildlife that calls Watsonville home,” said Nature Center Coordinator Leonardo Cruz, “and to highlight the center as a great place to learn about it.”

Cerney said he already had a piece in mind when he was brought on for the project. He contacted South African amateur wildlife photographer Michael Haworth for permission to use one of his photographs of a white egret as inspiration.

Cruz said he was highly impressed with Cerney’s piece.

“The way he presented the bird as just about to take flight—it’s incredible,” Cruz said. 

The cutout is made from a type of plywood known as MDO (Medium Density Overlay), as well as aluminum pipes and a high-quality paint that prevents fading over time.

For Cerney, the type of art he creates is special in that it utilizes real landscapes as backgrounds.

“You take the piece out into nature, in front of a rural landscape, and suddenly you have a complete scene,” he said.

Salinas-based artist John Cerney specializes in giant mural cutouts that can be found along highways across the U.S. —contributed photo

Working large-scale, especially outdoors is not easy, Cerney admitted. There are a number of challenges—from transportation to natural elements.

But Cerney finds his method rewarding.

“Most artists want at least one of two things: for their art to be seen, or to make a living off it,” he said. “I realized early on that I can guarantee people will see my art by working big.”

“Great White Egret” will be placed just behind the Watsonville Nature Center, in a spot that can easily be seen from the park and both directions along Harkins Slough Road.

“I think it will become a helpful landmark,” Cruz said. “We can just say, ‘We’re right by the giant bird.’”

The City is preparing a metal framework for the piece and will assist with installation in early December, when Cerney returns from working in Oklahoma. Nature Center staff have agreed to help maintain the mural.

“They’re going above and beyond,” Cerney said. “I’m a small-town artist—most clients don’t work this closely with me. I appreciate it.”To learn about Cerney and his art visit For information on the Watsonville Nature Center visit or follow them on Instagram.

Johanna Miller
Johanna Miller
Reporter Johanna Miller grew up in Watsonville, attending local public schools and Cabrillo College before transferring to Pacific University Oregon to study English and Media. She covers the arts, business and agriculture.


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