Jun 25, 2019 05:24PM
● By Marketing SENSI MAG
Public art has the power not only to beautify a neighborhood but to unite a community. When the residents of Barrio Logan learned in the early 1970s that a park they were promised during highway construction would instead be used for a California Highway Patrol station, they rebelled. Demonstrators held bulldozers at bay until government officials relented, and Chicano Park was born. Now resplendent with murals of pre-Columbian, colonial, and contemporary themes, Chicano Park was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 2017 and continues to be the cultural heart of Barrio Logan.
San Diego’s City Heights have also been renewed with original art through The Avenue Mural Project. Begun in 2017 to dissuade taggers from defacing local businesses, the campaign has adorned buildings such as the Treasure Trove antique store and the Disfrutalas restaurant façade with whimsical teacups and flowers, fruits and vegetables painted by high school student Mimi Gonzalez Martinez with the mentorship of a professional artist. The project has raised $13,000 and plans to enlist local graffiti artists to join and take ownership of the neighborhood’s aesthetics.
Community leaders in Long Beach also turn to art to strengthen relationships and strengthen civic pride. Local works will be the focus of the International Mural Festival, July 21 through 28. The week-long event is produced by Pow! Wow!, a group dedicated to beautification and community pride. The festival is part of the internationally acclaimed Pow! Wow! Worldwide, a series of street art events that has brought murals to public spaces in Washington, D.C., Honolulu, Tokyo, Seoul, and more. In 2018, Pow! Wow! unveiled 18 new murals in Long Beach, many of them in the downtown area. One piece by the artist Never Made features a pair of eyes gazing at a horizon filled with oil wells silhouetted by the California sunset.
Pow! Wow! artist and Long Beach local Jason Keam, who has done animation work for Disney and the Cartoon Network, also painted a mural for another city artwork series, the Cambodia Town Mural Project. Unveiled in 2017, the collection of eight murals was funded by the Arts Council for Long Beach with grants from the California Arts Council, the California Community Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Neighborhoods can reveal their character through their art, and Southern California communities are no exception. Next time you’re driving through San Diego or Long Beach, take time to appreciate the beauty that local artists have created for all to share. ARTSLB.ORG/PROGRAMS/PUBLIC-ART/CTMP