Stare In Wonder At 18 New Long Beach Murals

Long Beach mural
Sydney G. James flew from Detroit to create her mural at Stephanie's Beauty Salon on 7th Street. (Photo by Isaura Aceves/KPCC)

Long Beach just held its annual Pow! Wow! mural festival.

The event brings local and international artists together to create murals throughout the city. It's part of a worldwide series of street events that puts art in public spaces everywhere from Honolulu to Seoul to Washington D.C.

Since 2014, the series has created 40 murals in Long Beach, and now there are 18 more. If you're an art lover, it's the perfect opportunity to visit and see something new. Around every corner, there's a pop of color, with art getting all tangled up with Long Beach.

Here are a few of them.

A Long Beach local showcases her art

Tatiana Velazquez
Long Beach's Tatiana Velazquez never thought she'd had the opportunity to be part of Pow Wow and contribute to the city's growing art community. (Photo by Isaura Aceves/KPCC)

The festival welcomes artists from all over the country and around the world, but local artists are involved too. Tatiana Velazquez moved to Long Beach a couple years ago, joining the local art community. She's been doing street art and murals for around six years.

Velazquez was honored to do a mural for Pow Wow after following them for years.

"I never imagined I was gonna be part of [Pow Wow]," Velazquez said. "The days leading up to it I was really nervous, but once you start doing it, then it's like, 'OK, this is what I'm here for, I'm ready to paint.'"

The inspiration behind her art came from a dream she had years ago — of a three-eyed being. She'd recently been exploring figures with huge hats and started merging the two concepts in her art. Looking at her mural at Ashley's Bar in Long Beach, you see a majestic being looking down at you with the vibrant colors catching your eye — like a mystical dream.

Mystical mural
Tatiana combined her fascination with beings with hats and playing with different shapes and figures on her mural at Ashley's Bar and Grill. (Photo by Isaura Aceves/KPCC)

Through Pow Wow, Velazquez was able to share her art and vision with not only other artists, but the community. Parents, kids, and neighbors came out to support her and others throughout the week.

"I made a lot of friends," Velazquez said. "'Just going to the events this week, you realize it's like a big family — everyone is so nice and supportive of each other."

She hopes that, at the end of the day, people smile and feel good when they see her mural.

From Florida to Long Beach

Evoca1 at work
This wasn't artist Evoca1 first Pow Wow, but it continues to be a cherished opportunity to share his work with the community. (Photo by Isaura Aceves/KPCC)

One of the many non-local artists that partook was "Evoca1," who's originally from the Dominican Republic but based out of Florida. This wasn't his first Pow Wow event — he'd been invited to participate in the mural festival in Hawaii, which led to his invitation to participate in Long Beach's own event.

"People are super excited that I'm here," he said. "The whole time I've been here, they've been thanking me for painting the wall and beautifying the city. It's always great getting that feedback when you're painting — people get excited."

Being part of the project's been a great opportunity for him and other artists, giving them the chance to travel the world and share their work with local communities. He cherishes the chance to leave a piece in the community for people to enjoy long after he's gone.

"I hide little messages in the wall for people to decipher," Evoca1 said. "Sometimes they're political or social issues, and I try to distract them for a bit, but also have them think what the painting is about."

He's been doing art for a long time, but it's been only five years since he started painting murals. He said that murals are a great way for him to connect to people and share his work with a broader audience. They let him surprise people with his work and touch them emotionally.

Currently he's part of an exhibition the Long Beach Museum of Art, exhibiting a piece symbolizing social struggle and inequality. His mural at the Long Beach Convention Center shows a flower girl that symbolizes the immigrant children being affected by current political policies, with dogs fighting over a white flag below her.

flower girl mural
Evoca1 works on finishing his mural at the Long Beach Convention Center, where he hopes the community will think about the meaning beyond the painting. (Photo by Isaura Aceves/KPCC)

"I want them to explore something they haven't before, like a different culture or idea, to challenge them a bit," Evoca1 said.

As the week ended and he finished his piece, he said that nothing beats the feeling of conquering the wall and getting back on the plane home with the satisfaction of knowing you got it done.

A long way from home

Muralist Koz Dos
KozDos arrived in the U.S. from Venezuela for the first time to participate in Pow Wow Long Beach. (Photo by Isaura Aceves/KPCC)

The artist KozDos flew from Venezuela to participate in Pow Wow Long Beach. Through the art project ThinkSpace, he was invited to participate at Pow Wow. This was also his first time stepping foot in the United States.

"I really enjoyed the attention and the joyfulness here," he said. "[The festival's] also been really organized."

Every experience he had painting murals has been different, but he said they're all equally important. For KozDos, as an artist, they're essential as they help draw attention to his work.

He said he'd jump on the opportunity to come back and share his work in the U.S. But while he loved being part Pow Wow, he found the community interaction to be a bit of a struggle.

"For me, it's a bit complicated interacting with people," he said. " I'm mounted on a crane and I can't always interact with the [community], even though I'd want to."

Although he painted vigorously all week, there was at least a small crowd watching throughout the days, enjoying his work on one of the walls of Ashley's Bar in Long Beach. What he does combines elements of surrealism and nature, creating a powerful piece that leaves audiences standing in awe.

Tiger/chicken mural
You can find KozDos' mural in an alley near Ashley's Bar and Grill. (Photo by Isaura Aceves/KPCC)

"I work with animals and human beings, and the confrontation between nature and self-awareness," KozDos said. "It's extremely personal work for me."

On every wall he works with, he considers the elements within the wall — the paint, the composition. But the inspiration and conceptual thought of the piece is something personal to him, even when working with universal themes. His goal isn't to evoke a feeling in the community or individual when they see his art.

"Wanting to evoke emotions is a mistake — I think if you work hard, that energy will reflect in your art," he said. "It's like a true friendship that blooms by itself, not by force."

You can see his dedication through the details of his mural. Even as he was finishing his piece on the last day before his flight, his energy and dedication never wore off.

If you want to see more from these artists, check out the new exhibition at Long Beach Museum of Art featuring the works of Evoca1 and KozDos. "Vitality and Verve III" features many of the artists that took part in the Long Beach Pow! Wow! (OK, two more exclamation marks) festival.

Fern's
Artist Juan Travieso painted his mural at Fern's on 4th Street. (Photo by Isaura Aceves/KPCC)

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