If you ask Southern California street artist Kid Wiseman, the whole world is full of blank slates. Drab, white walls, waiting to be filled with life and color.
Which is why—as the 32-year-old San Diego muralist sprayed a careful swath of blue paint onto a parking lot wall in downtown Manhattan Beach on Thursday, Oct. 24 —he knew he was taking the city a step in the right direction.
“Every wall I see that doesn’t have anything on it looks like a blank canvas,” said the 32-year-old artist, who has done large-scale murals for companies including Red Bull and TOMS Shoes as well as teaching art and production to high school students throughout Los Angeles and San Diego. “When I’m driving down the street I’m just imagining what I could be putting on each one of those walls.”
Wiseman’s mural, which spans two low-standing walls on the east and west sides of the public parking lot on Highland Avenue at 14th Street, features measured splashes of bold lines and zigzags designed to be an abstract depiction of morning-to-night at the beach.
“It’s whatever you want it to be,” said Wiseman, who in keeping with his mission to teach street art to the next generation, even allowed some young Manhattan Beach residents to stop by and help paint the mural. “That’s what I like about it.”
And it’s just the beginning. Wiseman’s is the first of of four public murals to be put up around town between now and December as a part of the city’s efforts to bring more public art to the community.
“Public art and murals humanize the built environment,” said Manhattan Beach Cultural Arts Manager Martin Betz. “They enrich the community . . . but also they ignite the imagination, encourage thought and prompt discourse.”
The murals—which include images from sunny beaches to bold graphics and nature scenes—will be installed in the following locations over the coming weeks:
The elevator structure at the Manhattan Beach Civic Center, which will feature a butterfly mural by Redondo Beach painter Joanna Garel
The east wall of the Joslyn Community Center, which is expected to showcase a turn-of-the-century beach scene by multimedia artist Charles Bragg;
Metlox Plaza, which will feature art by interactive muralist Kelsey Montague, whose interactive mural art has become synonymous with Instagram selfies;
The parking lot off 14th Street and Highland Avenue, which features Wiseman’s art.
A fifth mural, to be done by local photographer Bo Bridges, was originally approved to go up in Manhattan Beach’s underground parking structure, but the location is now under reconsideration.
“There is an impact that art has for the community,” said Garel, who also designed a mural for Hermosa Beach in 2017. “It adds personality to the city.”
In all, the murals will cost a total of $73,500 and will be funded by the city’s Public Art Trust Fund.
Betz said he hopes Manhattan Beach can follow nearby cities’ lead when it comes to public art installations. In 2010, for instance, Hermosa Beach, started a decade-long project aiming to put at least 10 murals throughout the city. It has already completed nine of them.
“We are just catching up,” Betz said, adding that the city is not currently working on putting murals up on private property—on the walls of office buildings, for example—but that is something that may be encouraged in the future.
“Murals are accessible and allow people to experience them every day,” he said. “They don’t have to go to museums or galleries, they don’t have to collect art in their homes. They just pass by it on their way to work or while running around town doing errands.”