Photos by Asia Morris.
Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia pointed to the Tristan Eaton and James Jean murals behind him at the official launch and press event of the second annual Pow! Wow! Long Beach, saying “[...]the kind of art that is behind me is real art. These are artists, they should be respected for their work.”
The two murals were painted on the three-story wall of The Varden during the inaugural Pow! Wow! Long Beach last summer, when founder Jasper Wong brought the renowned street art festival to the seaside city, thanks to the encouragement of Julia Huang of Long Beach-based businesses and organizations such as Intertrend Communications, The Long Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) the Downtown Long Beach Associates and the Long Beach Museum of Art (LBMA).
“They’re using a unique style that really gets to certain parts of our community, that really speaks to young people and certain communities, and I’m really proud of them to be here,” Garcia added. “Not every city is going to go ahead and open their arms up and say, ‘Yes, let’s get street artists to paint a bunch of murals all over your downtown and the rest of the city.’”
“There's a lot of people here that took a chance,” said Nelson. “And sometimes the most creative, the most brilliant moves that happen are when you take that chance and POW! WOW! has [made that jump] and has been embraced by Long Beach.”
Felipe Pantone’s finished mural, located in the alley of Hotel Royal at 431 East 4th Street.
Artists from around the world, including Spain, Portugal and France, are not only visiting Long Beach for the first time this year, but the United States, as well. And with more than double the amount of murals being painted in 2016 compared to last year’s festival, you have to think about the team behind it all, the team that ensures, for example, the security of the over-water scaffolding that Hawaiian native and artist Hula will have to stand on to paint his mural under the Queensway Bridge; the team that oftentimes has to be just as creative as the artists themselves to make this week of visual wonder a reality.
“You’d think because this is the second time that POW! WOW! is here it gets simpler, it gets easier,” Huang told the press. “But the fact of the matter is, it gets a little bit more difficult because our standard is higher and we need more support.”
This year the Port of Long Beach gave $20,000 to the festival, according to Steve Goodling of the Long Beach CVB. Many saw the donation as a generous statement, with Long Beach’s economic engine is showing its support for the arts. And before you bicker that the locals haven’t been given an opportunity to participate, please consider that not one, but five Long Beach artists—Jeff McMillan, David Van Patten, Sket One, Gail Werner and Yoskay Yamamoto—are painting walls this time around. And speaking of locals, you can’t forget the building owners who are willing to trust the artists in the first place to not only produce something creative, but offer something that offers improvements to immediate communities.
“There’s so many amazing [building] owners that have been coming to the artists to say, ‘Hey, you’re painting our wall, thank you so much for doing this for our neighborhood, come by to my restaurant, you’ll have free food, free drinks all day long, we’ll take care of you,’ and that alone means so much,” said Wong.
POW! WOW! Long Beach revolves around street art, but the LBMA has also capitalized on the now-popular form of art, when last year their exhibit Vitality & Verve: Transforming the Urban Landscape, drew a record-breaking crowd to see murals painted inside the walls of a museum, led by a director who believes this type of work should not be restricted to the streets, a concept that has pushed the LBMA to think outside of the box, as well as the artists they’ve invited to participate.
“I think at the museum we’re looking at artists that have been marginalized that are doing contemporary art, that have been doing this for years and years and years and it deserves to be studied, it deserves to be looked at and it deserves to be celebrated,” said Nelson.
Vitality and Verve: In the Third Dimension, will be the museum’s second go at opening a coinciding major exhibition soon after POW! WOW! Long Beach, this time featuring murals, as well as sculptural installations. Pow! Wow! also offers a full schedule events, featuring artist talks, pop-up shops and performances by POW! WOW! School of Music.
“Long Beach is probably one of our most supportive cities out of all the cities that we’ve worked in, and we’ve worked all over the world, so we’ re always happy to come back here and do more murals and help beautify the city,” said Wong. “At the end of the day it’s really a community project; everyone’s involved.”
For the full schedule of events, including tonight’s Imprint Presents a Talk with Martha Cooper and Ernest Zacharevic at the Art Theatre, click here. Visit the web page here to find each mural location.