Photos by Emily N. Tanaka.
Over the past three Pow! Wow! Long Beach art festivals, 52 murals have been painted throughout the city by a range of artists, some enduring 14-hour flights overseas to land in Long Beach, some only having to meander a couple of miles to arrive at their designated walls.
What is it about the festival that gives so much energy to its followers, to those who are willing to walk eight miles just to visit 11 of the 19 works created this year, for example?
Perhaps it’s the sharing of cultures between the artists and the community, and not just through face-to-face interactions, but through the language of art. Each mural represents a connection between its creator and all those who see it.
Miami-based artist Tatiana “Tati” Suarez spoke of how she uses her feminine figures to communicate her ideas with her viewers; Amsterdam artist Adele Renault paints street pigeons, reflecting an often overlooked commonality shared by most cities around the world, including Long Beach; local artist Bodeck Hernandez painted his mural specifically for the school children that would be seeing it every day.
It’s not just 52 murals that line the streets of Long Beach, it’s 52 big ideas, 52 cultural references, 52 landmarks, 52 individual reflections based on each of the artists’ life experiences, it’s 52 people who have left a visual legacy for anyone to contemplate and connect with at their leisure.
While a few are scattered as far north as 59th and Atlantic Avenue (near the Michelle Obama Neighborhood Library), the majority of the murals have been painted in the downtown area in walkable clusters. For next year’s Pow! Wow! Long Beach, assuming there will be one, perhaps community leaders can start a conversation about bringing to life a different area of the city that craves these cultural and community connections and the ensuing positive attention.