Rather than tear down walls, the creative city of Long Beach, California is painting on them. Eclectic communities like The East Village are working diligently to break down barriers and celebrate the diverse cultures and liveliness that exists in the city.
The first step: revitalising the arts.
Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce believes reinvesting in the street art scene will help paint a new picture for her bustling district. “Supporting the arts is something that isn’t even a question, it’s about how we do it and how cities play a role in supporting individual artists, non-profits and education centres like Cal State Long Beach or the Art Exchange,” Pearce says.
The idea of bringing back a city’s art scene to give it new life is a concept that has proven to be successful in other parts of the world. The South African city of Johannesburg is another urban jungle whose dilapidated streets have been transformed into vibrant hubs thanks in part to its brightly-coloured walls. As Global Street Art reported in a recent article, Johannesburg’s economic slump in the 90’s brought an surge of graffiti and street art to low socio-economic areas. Today, those same neighbourhoods hold urban arts festivals and beckon local muralists to leave their mark. The same trend is happening in Long Beach as we speak.
Representatives like Councilwoman Pearce are working with local artists to reinvent Long Beach with art to make the city a more inviting place where new and innovative ideas are waiting to be discovered on every corner. Pearce describes Long Beach as the tale of two cities – “We have high-rises on Ocean Boulevard and it’s a very different picture on the likes of 10th street. Having the arts to communicate with each other [makes] it a little easier for people to start a conversation,” Pearce says.
That’s why she is intent on working with organisations like POW! WOW! Long Beach, a collective of artists from around the globe that have helped put Long Beach back on the map by painting incredible murals across the city. To further show her support, she invited Southern California-based artists Jeff McMillan and Gary Musgrave, better known as The Draculas, to paint a mural in her office. Musgrave says the fact that Councilwoman Pearce even asked them to paint the mural is progress in itself. “Art breeds innovation and creativity, because it’s the springboard for everything else. Art inspires more art,” he says. “We live in a time where we’re constantly looking at why people are different than us, but what we should be doing is looking at what similarities cultures have, what similarities humanity has and focus more on those.”
All in all, the art isn’t just meant to restore the city, but to also inspire and spark conversation between people from all neighbourhoods.“What any mural does is it creates dialogue. The mural is engaging them, and I think that’s what art does. In galleries, in museums and on the street—it creates dialogue,” McMillan says.
Check out the film by Sickboat Creative on the developments in Long Beach below:
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