Pow! Wow! Long Beach Organizers Acknowledge Graffiti Roots At Kick-Off Ceremony

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Vice Mayor Rex Richardson speaking next to The Varden Hotel. Photo by Asia Morris.

Pow! Wow! Long Beach organizers gathered this morning to officially kick off the third iteration of the mural and street art festival at The Varden Hotel in downtown Long Beach.

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“The third time's the charm,” Julia Huang, CEO of Intertrend and part of the reason Pow! Wow! was first able to land in Long Beach, said during the celebration before introducing founder Jasper Wong.

“Without Jasper, his little vision of saying, you know, I’m going to make this world a little bit prettier, I’m going to make this world a little bit more beautiful, I’m going to make this world a little bit more peaceful and better with art, without his vision, we would not be here,” Huang said.

With more volunteers than they know what to do with, Wong said, support from the city and a variety of sponsors offering up the resources to provide for the slew of acclaimed participating artists, it’s set to be another festival for the books.


 

Vice Mayor Rex Richardson spoke of the “transformative power of art and murals,” noting that the mural painted on the Golden State Humane Society building during the Creative Corridor Challenge last year on “a blighted wall that was tagged 103 times within a one-year period,” “had only been tagged maybe once in the 12 months after” the wall had been painted.

Similarly, one of the mural sites this year was chosen by District 8 Councilmember Al Austin with the intention to deter graffiti. Artist Noelle Martinez is currently making progress on the wall located under a railroad underpass at Del Amo Boulevard and Atlantic Avenue.

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Noelle Martinez working on her mural on Sunday. Photo courtesy of the Office of Councilmember Al Austin.

However, while graffiti signifies blight for some, Jeff Gress and Kamea Hadar, both Pow! Wow! organizers who have been with the festival since its humble beginnings, noted that its roots lie in the unsupported tagging-turned-street art that has evolved into a globally-followed “movement,” so to speak, they said in a separate interview with the Post.

“This kind of movement, whatever you wanna call it, comes from the streets, so you don’t ever want to forget those roots,” Hadar, Pow! Wow! Long Beach co-lead director, added. “It’s evolved into completely different things, and you can debate [whether it’s] street art, graffiti, is it vandalism, art, but you never want to forget the people and all the different groups that it has[...].”

Gress is especially looking forward to the graffiti battle at The Varden hosted by Mike Giant. Being able to bring some of the local artists into the mix to show off more “street style” writing and artistry on Saturday, July 22 is a great way to cap the week-long festival, he said.

“A lot of the time we do street art and murals, which is kind of different from the graffiti world, so by being able to bring in some of the local writers and just bring it back down to more street-style stuff, is pretty exciting,” Gress said.

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Kamea Hadar (left) and Jeff Gress at the Pow! Wow! Long Beach press event at The Varden Hotel. Photo by Asia Morris.

Pow! Wow! week, whether in Long Beach, Hawaii, or in another country, has been described as a magical, positive experience by those walking around to see the artists at work, the artists themselves, staff and volunteers. When the Post asked Hadar what makes a week of travel away from family, the hard work and stress required worth it, he said it’s the feeling of creating a lasting legacy.

“I think that Pow! Wow! is what a lot of the public sees, which is what lives on the walls, but it’s really about all this sharing of cultures that happens, and this family vibe,” Hadar said. “And that’s why it’s a completely different thing to actually experience the week of Pow! Wow! And not just go the next month and see the walls.”

“When I look back—I think all of us—we’re going to look back when we’re old and gray and feel like we did something cool and we left this world a more beautiful place,” he added.


 

Although the Long Beach Museum of Art will not be hosting Vitality and Verve this year, its Pow! Wow!-related exhibit series, Huang encouraged fans of good art to visit during the week. Its recently opened exhibition, Rafael Soriano: The Artist as Mystic, shows nearly 100 paintings, drawings and pastels by the acclaimed Cuban-born painter

For more information on how to keep up with Pow! Wow! Long Beach 2017, visit the website here



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