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Atascadero's Equality Mural Project hosts a fundraiser with music and film on June 18 

Atascadero's Equality Mural Project (EMP) has an ambitious goal: to bring 10 murals to walls of A-Town businesses. They've picked the artists, they've raised about half the needed funds, and they've been navigating the city's permitting processes. Now it's time to get the community involved for a final push to see the project through. On Friday, June 18, EMP will host its first public fundraiser with live music, a film screening, and a panel discussion that will explore the importance of public art.

"Doors" open for the outdoor event at 6 p.m., outside the Atascadero Printery, and food and beverages will be available. Seven-piece live-instrument hip-hop and funk act Wordsauce will play a 45-minute set starting at 6:30 p.m.

click to enlarge WORD TO THE WISE The June 18 event outside the Atascadero Printery will kick off with a 45-minute set by local seven-piece live instrumentation hip-hop and funk act Wordsauce. - PHOTO COURTESY OF WORDSAUCE
  • Photo Courtesy Of Wordsauce
  • WORD TO THE WISE The June 18 event outside the Atascadero Printery will kick off with a 45-minute set by local seven-piece live instrumentation hip-hop and funk act Wordsauce.

"We're down to support the arts, and we'll bring the energy," Wordsauce lead singer Wesley Price said. "Live music is coming back, and we're eager to play for the community and support a good cause."

Next up will be a screening of Alice Street (67 min.) by director Spencer Wilkinson, who spent a decade working with gang-involved and homeless youth in the San Francisco Bay Area before he founded Endangered Ideas, a documentary production company in Oakland to focus on stories of resilience.

Alice Street is just such a story, about a four-story mural in downtown Oakland by Chilean studio painter Pancho Peskador and Chicago-born aerosol artist Desi Mundo, who overcame opposition to complete the mural only to see it endangered by gentrification. The film screened virtually at this year's SLO International Film Festival. It also won the Audience Choice Award for Feature Documentary at the 2020 Oakland International Film Festival and the Social Impact Award at the Thin Line Film Festival.

Wilkinson will attend the event to participate in a panel discussion about public art. He spoke with New Times ahead of the event.

"I learned about the Alice Street mural while living on Alice Street in downtown Oakland," Wilkinson said. "I heard the muralists were planning their largest piece to date that reflected the diverse intersection of 14th and Alice. On one side of the street is Hotel Oakland, a historic hotel converted into low-income housing for Chinese seniors; on the opposite corner resides the Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts, one of the largest centers of African-Diasporic arts in the country.

click to enlarge MURALS MATTER Director Spencer Wilkinson's Alice Street, a documentary about the creation of a four-story mural in downtown Oakland and the threats against it, will be screened on June 18, as part of a fundraiser for the Equality Mural Project, which aims to add 10 equality-promoting murals to Atascadero buildings. - PHOTO COURTESY OF AYSE GURSOZ
  • Photo Courtesy Of Ayse Gursoz
  • MURALS MATTER Director Spencer Wilkinson's Alice Street, a documentary about the creation of a four-story mural in downtown Oakland and the threats against it, will be screened on June 18, as part of a fundraiser for the Equality Mural Project, which aims to add 10 equality-promoting murals to Atascadero buildings.

"The intersection is also located at ground zero for gentrification in Oakland, and both centers were at risk of displacement," he continued. "I followed the artists' process over six years, from their initial research and design phases until the eventual block party celebration. When the story turned and became a fight to save the mural, I recognized there was a larger story to impart."

Wilkinson is screening the film in various West Coast locations as part of his Summer Impact Tour. What does he hope the tour will achieve?

"The Summer Impact Tour will use the film to spark important conversations about public art, gentrification, and coalition building in cities across California," he said. "So far, we've screened at film festivals, urban planning conferences, housing rights organizations, and art museums with incredible conversations and dialogue. We're especially excited to partner with arts organizations like the Equality Mural Project, who are actively organizing to create public art. At the end of the tour, we're planning a workshop that will bring these incredible organizations together to discuss best practices and form a supportive coalition for ongoing education and strategy sharing."

Art is in the eye of the beholder. It never appeals to everyone. What does Wilkinson say to people who think this or that mural is an eyesore?

"Just like museums, not every painting or piece of art will appeal to all viewers. Public art is meant to spark conversation and ignite thought," he said. "However, when art is rooted in a community, reflects its diversity, and includes a deep engagement process, such as the Alice Street mural, there's a much better chance that a community will grow to appreciate it, and in the case of our story, they will come together to protect it."

click to enlarge COMING SOON Brandy Lee Pippen's Nature is for Everyone is the first mural approved by the city, to be painted this year on the side of locally owned business Brü Coffee, as depicted in this rendering. - IMAGE COURTESY OF THE EQUALITY MURAL PROJECT
  • Image Courtesy Of The Equality Mural Project
  • COMING SOON Brandy Lee Pippen's Nature is for Everyone is the first mural approved by the city, to be painted this year on the side of locally owned business Brü Coffee, as depicted in this rendering.

Public art is important. Locally, the EMP's goal is to both beautify Atascadero but also spread a message of equality. Often, over time locals take pride in their public art, even if at first they may not have appreciated it, and tourists remember places with impactful images much more than blank walls.

"Public art has played a huge role—rooted in indigenous communities—in societies across the globe," Wilkinson said. "The Mexican Muralist Movement was highly influential in creating a muralism style that both educated and entertained the people. Sometimes museums and art galleries can be exclusive places. Art in the public sphere allows for communities to gather, to take in the urban scenery in a different way, and hopefully to be inspired." Δ

Contact Senior Staff Writer Glen Starkey at gstarkey@newtimesslo.com.

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