Bursts of bright colors and whimsical designs can be seen adorning several of Oakland, California’s, formerly dreary underpasses. These grand pieces of public art are the work of the Oakland Super Heroes Mural Project, an effort that seeks to involve youth in effecting change in their communities and rejuvenate the city they call home.
Creating larger-than-life murals (up to 4,000 square feet!) takes a lot of collaboration, but not just in the way one might expect. The project, led by the Attitudinal Healing Connection of Oakland, enlists the help of not just artists, but also area residents and local school children to dream up designs and bring them to life. With a body of work currently totaling six unique murals, students all the way from elementary to high school levels have led the conceptual designs of the pieces that now line their neighborhood’s streets.
There’s a saying that a picture is worth a thousand words, but when it comes to these murals, that may be putting it lightly; each piece has its own set of characters with detailed backgrounds and story lines created by students that represent visions of their own hometown superheroes. For instance, mural #4’s D-Bow Jalapeño has powers that he uses to pick up trash and put out fires; in mural #3, twins Planteen and Solar ensure that water is clean and abundant. Though the characters and the topics addressed in the paintings are diverse and varied, a common theme is there: they all represent students’ responses to the problems they see in their community and their visions for change.
The project represents a hope for the future, engaging students in a collaborative effort to reimagine their communities and utilize public art as a tool to craft solutions.
Know Before You Go
Mural #1 is located under the I-580 underpass on San Pablo Avenue between 35th and 36th Street. Mural #2 is located under the I-580 underpass on Market Street between 35th and 36th Street. Mural #3 is located under the I-580 underpass on West Street between 35th and 36th Street. Mural #4 is located under the I-580 underpass on West Street between 35th and 36th Street.