Five new murals will be coming to the streets of Manhattan Beach starting this July.

At a council meeting Tuesday night, city leaders approved public art pieces to be installed in several locations, including:

  • The parking garage and around the elevator structure at the civic center;
  • The east wall of the Joslyn Community Center;
  • Metlox Plaza;
  • And the parking lot off 14th Street and Highland Avenue.

The pieces will cost a total of $73,500 from the city’s Public Art Trust Fund.

South Bay artists commissioned to create the pieces are:

  • Photographer and fine artist Bo Bridges;
  • Redondo Beach painter Joanna Garel;
  • Multi-media Manhattan Beach artist Charles Bragg;
  • Interactive muralist Kelsey Montague;
  • And graffiti master Kid Wiseman.

The murals—which will include images from dreamy beaches and vibrant nature scenes to whimsical balloons and colorful, abstract graphics—are an introduction of public art to the cultural conversation of the city, according to Cultural Arts Manager Martin Betz.

“The goal is to beautify areas of the city and begin to encourage other entities to begin installing murals,” he said, noting the initial locations were chosen because those places already have a relationship with the city. "We were looking at properties that we wouldn't have to get into a complicated negotiation with...the idea is to kick start more private murals so this is the seed of that."

While city leaders nixed three other murals due to cost and lack of visibility in some proposed locations—such as the racquetball facility and skate spot at Marine Avenue Park—councilmembers did specify they want to see more murals going up around the city.

The city said it wants to work with artists whose projects didn't make the cut—including Venice Beach-based mixed-media artist Trek Thunder Kelly and Hermosa Beach graphic artist Josh Barnes—to spruce up other spots such as a white-walled Chase Bank building downtown or on the side of newly-renovated parking garage at Manhattan Village mall in the north part of the city.

"We have wasted wall space and nothing is being done with it," Councilmember Richard Montgomery urged. "We want to put the message out about art and show private property owners that they want to contribute to art in the city. We have opportunity, let's keep going after that."

To encourage more public artwork, officials also added language to city code to define murals as one-of-a-kind images containing a non-commercial message, differentiating them from simple signs.

Councilmembers retained the right to have final say over any future murals and are also looking to create ramifications for people who install them illegally.

“I would like to see something with a little teeth in it somewhere so people don’t just go painting murals on the sides of buildings and don’t get approval,” said Mayor Nancy Hersman.

Council members also said that they would like to see negotiations for any art pieces to include guarantees about durability against damage and graffiti.

"I really think we need to shoot for a ten-year life span at least with these things with the idea that if something is damaged, we have the ability...that we can reissue it," Councilmember Steve Napolitano said. "If some paint gets graffitied, that we have the ability to repaint it."

Artist Charles Bragg, who was commissioned to create a $20,000 piece at the Joslyn Community Center, said at the Tuesday meeting that he can create the mural on a acrylic polymer material that can then be wrapped onto the wall which would protect the artwork and ensure it lasts against the elements.

Betz noted not all artists are willing to create their work on a wrap, but did say all the murals will have a graffiti-protective coating.

Art conversation also extends to lobby of city hall

The public walls of the city won't be the only surfaces to get a colorful makeover.

At the Tuesday meeting, the City Council also approved four semi-finalists from a national competition to create an art-piece in the lobby of the Manhattan Beach City Hall facility.

The finalists were chosen from more than 100 submissions.

“Many applicants were top artists (from around) the country,” Betz said, noting the piece can be any type of artwork.

The semi-finalists—Hou de Sousa, a New York-based design team; Monika Bravo, a multi-disciplinary artist also from New York; designer Kipp Kobayashi; and Seattle sculpturist Susan Zoccola—will now have three months to create a proposal for what they would install in the lobby.

The proposals will then be presented to the Cultural Arts Commission, with a winner then recommended to city council by November, according to Betz.

He said once a final design and artist are chosen, fabrication on that project will begin in December 2020 and is expected to be completed by May 2021.

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