Katy Brack, a Huntington Beach artist, painted the main mural on the Sunset Beach post office. Her painting depicts a sand path leading toward the beach at Sunset Beach and a sunset-hour view of the Pacific Ocean, with Catalina Island on the horizon. (SCOTT SMELTZER, HB Independent / May 1, 2012)

Motorists heading to the upcoming 45th annual Sunset Beach Art Festival should spot the post office.

The local landmark at 16885 Pacific Coast Hwy. is a block from the site of the festival, which will happen during the Mother's Day weekend. Out-of-towners heading into Sunset Beach nowadays can no longer miss the little yellow building; they'll be able to use a set of murals recently painted on its outer walls as markers.

"I'm so excited," said Postmaster Corinne Brubaker, the postal worker who was the force behind the mural project. "The community deserves what's on these walls. The post office is the hub for these people."

Because there is no postal service around Sunset Beach, its residents rely on individual boxes at the building to collect their mail. And even though the community is now officially part of Huntington Beach, if you mail a letter or package from that facility, the postmark still bears the words "Sunset Beach CA 90742" in red lettering.

Mike Heinrich, the acting postmaster who is filling in for Brubaker while she has been seconded to another post office, explained that the U.S. Postal Service retains control of a given locality's name on the postmark.

The mural project began two years ago, after Brubaker had the building restuccoed and repainted yellow. In painting the building, painters covered over a pair of smaller murals that had long decorated its northern and southern outer walls.

"It was all peeling off," she said. "You could hardly see [them]."

During the Sunset Beach Art Festival in May 2010, Brubaker — who at the time served as vice president of the Las Damas, the local group that organizes the yearly festival — handed out fliers inviting artists to submit designs for a post office mural contest.

Working with Las Damas, she then got the wider Sunset Beach community involved in the project by forming a nine-member panel to judge the various pieces.

The judges awarded the three different mural jobs to the artists named as the first-, second- and third-place winners.

The top award went to Huntington Beach artist Katy Brack, who designed the largest of the three new pieces, which covers the post office's external southern wall. Her painting depicts a sand path leading toward the beach at Sunset Beach and a sunset-hour view of the Pacific Ocean, with Catalina Island on the horizon.

Second place went to Mel Rice, who painted a mural on the northern wall showing a flock of pelicans flying above the sea at sunset.

Third place went to Enzo Palagyi, who painted a sign near the entrance to the post office. His painting plays up the Sunset Beach postmark theme by encircling the building's abbreviated address, "16885 PCH," with the center of the mark's two red rings.

"I see it as an ode to its history as its own community," Brack said of her mural, alluding to Sunset Beach's former status as an unincorporated place.

The 2012 Sunset Beach Art Festival will take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., May 12 and 13, at 12th Street and North Pacific Avenue.

imran.vittachi@latimes.com

Twitter: @ImranVittachi