Coast Life

Are we now officially among the top mural towns in America? We just might be.

Jimbo Phillips' "Plastic Pollution" mural
Jimbo Phillips’ “Plastic Pollution” mural takes shape Thursday off River Street.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Sea Walls is an international public-arts program sponsored by the PangeaSeed Foundation, which has already created more than 400 murals in cities around the world. After this week’s transformation, Santa Cruz became an even more prolific location to spy urban art.

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Big, bold, provocative urban murals are now an essential part of any major city’s visual vocabulary. And, as small cities go, Santa Cruz has always flexed its muscles in that department.

David Rice of Portland, Oregon, works on his "Shark Conservation" mural Monday off Front Street.
(Keivin Painchaud/ Lookout Santa Cruz)

But now, Santa Cruz’s murals game has taken a giant leap forward, to the point that it might rank among the elite showcase cities for murals on the West Coast. And it all happened overnight.

Technically, it all happened over four or five nights. That’s how long it took the ambitious Sea Walls Santa Cruz mural project to transform the city. Spearheaded by celebrated Santa Cruz muralist Taylor Reinhold, Sea Walls is an international public-arts program sponsored by the PangeaSeed Foundation, which has already created more than 400 murals in cities around the world.

During the past week, Lookout’s staff photographer Kevin Painchaud has been tailing the invited muralists as they’ve painted eye-catching murals at sites all over Santa Cruz. They include well-known local artists like Abi Mustapha, Jimbo Phillips and Caia Koopman, and some of the buzziest names nationally.

Their mission was to create art that somehow called attention to the environmental threats faced by the world’s oceans, specifically how that issue might relate to Santa Cruz County.

Things are looking up in the alley Thursday in the alley behind the Soquel/Front garage.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

The results have been nothing short of astonishing, from flame-haired sea goddesses to enormous ruby-colored killer squids. In the coming days and weeks, Santa Cruzans will gradually discover this upgrade in public art, mural by mural.

We’d love to hear from you. Which are your favorites? What do you see in these prominent new paintings? What message do they leave you with? How do they enhance (or diminish) Santa Cruz’s urban landscape? Email us at news@lookoutlocal.com.

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Santa Cruz Sea Walls map
(Via SeaWalls.org)