In Long Beach, murals provoke dialogue and storytelling, provide employment for local artists, and instill in the residents a sense of community pride.
You don’t have to be a world-famous artist to create murals. Murals can engage young people in beautifying their neighborhoods with art that gives meaning to their community. And once a project is completed, a mural has the power to transform anyone who happens to pass it by—it’s accessible to everyone, whether on foot, in a car or on a bike. In Long Beach, quality community art comes without a museum entrance fee.
From history to avant-garde, the Long Beach mural scene has it all. Below, VoiceWaves youth reporters picked out a small list of murals around town that they thought deserved some special attention.
Situated right next door to street-wear and show boutique, Proper, in Central Long Beach, is this surreal piece of work from Zach Howard. I found this mural to be quite “overwhelming.” You’ve got what appears to be a humpback whale, an elephant, a dark ominous shark-like figure in the background, and a building of some sort. It appears as though the creatures are from some Disney fantasy movie.
The shades of blue give off a feeling of serenity with the lighter shades and turmoil engulfing the dark figure. The whale and elephant are the largest animals on Earth in their respective aquatic and land environments. But for some reason, the elephant is underwater. I guess if Dumbo could fly, why can’t this elephant go for a dip?
The building in the mural reminds me of the video game Bioshock, taking place in an underwater city named Rapture. Could this imprisoned elephant be escaping from the abandoned city? Is this whale a passerby who might help out this four-legged stranger? Will they both survive?
It’s strange, yet interesting that danger looms in the background. You might remember Bruce, from 2003’s “Finding Nemo” and his famous line, “Fish are friends, not food.” If you’ve seen the movie, you know how that turns out. Sharks have a reputation for being dangerous for a reason and hopefully our two big friends manage to find safety amidst the impending doom they are facing.Located in an alley right across from Proper, this colorful mural juxtaposes the dark dumpsters in front of it. Unfortunately, someone tagged over a portion of the piece, but nevertheless as you can see, all eyes are upon thee. Eyes have always had a symbolic meaning: a window to the soul, omnipotence, clairvoyance, and prophetic observations.
As a hip hop aficionado, I’ve noticed there has been a recent emergence of songs dedicated to opening up your pineal gland, or what many would refer to as the “third eye.” Rappers such as Carson’s Ab-Soul bring to light this subject matter amongst other unorthodox subjects and at first glance, lyrics from the rapper came to mind.
“I did a song about DMT/Soulja Boy did one right after/3 eyes, these guys ain’t seeing me,” from Childish Gambino’s ‘Unnecessary’ featuring ScHoolboy Q and Ab-Soul is the line I immediately thought of.
Just by looking at this mural I feel as if I’m giving a presentation at a lecture hall. Eyes have a peculiar essence and it can be a bit unnerving having eyes fixated on you. Some eyes might have your total attention whereas others are looking around wishing they were somewhere else. Eyes can be pretty creepy. I dig them.
Located on the outside of Washington Middle School in Long Beach this beautiful piece of art dances through our multicultural history. The piece places together dances from Latino, Cambodian, Pacific Islander, African and American cultures. In Long Beach, this is a significant representation of the many different communities that make up the city. The dances represented here will change over time but the deep meaning of expression continues to thrive in an ever-changing culture. Soon new dances will be created and this mural will surely capture those moments.
This mural is located in the perfect place to inspire: at youth local hang out spot, Drake Park. On the right of the mural you can see youth reaching their ambitions after facing a staircase of difficulties. It is a painting of dreams that come true. It’s important for me to note that Drake Park is located in what people might call a “rough” neighborhood in the heart of Long Beach, and the mural has never been tagged or painted over.
I couldn’t find the name of this awesome artwork, but I would name it, “A Thousand Eyes.” I feel it represents our worldviews. The different eyes are being held by two hands with love, which may indicate that our perspective should always come from a place of love. It is these types of artwork that make me think deeply.
This mural on the side of local business, Wilson’s Signs, is a teaser to any lover of cartoon art. When I saw this fun story illustrated on the wall of a gated empty lot, I walked over to back, raised my camera and happily captured the mural on film.
Visible from the outside of Pine Street is a cigar-puffing, big-beaked bird, and a Disney-inspired Mickey Mouse doppelgänger in a top hat. They point to an even bigger version of the same mouse and a house standing with skinny, human-like legs. The house has one arm coming out of its window and the other holding a key.
This set of paintings on the side of the Press-Telegram building gives the word “alley” a good name: it’s not home to a dumpster and it’s well kept. The art itself is visually appealing and thought-provoking, but what I like most of all is that when the sun sets, the string of white bulbs crisscrossing between both of the buildings electrifies this downtown Long Beach wall for the public’s enjoyment.