A set of 10 vivid murals have sprouted up along Herondo Street in Redondo Beach, on the exterior walls of the AES power plant. The man responsible says it’s the beginning of what he hopes will be a renaissance for such art in the beach city.
Developer Leo Pustilnikov, new owner of the 51-acre site, commissioned the murals and declared them a “test run.” He’s taking the temperature of the community, he said, and “overall, it’s gotten a lot of great response.”
The boldly colored designs pop against the plain, grey concrete panels from North Harbor Drive to North Francisca Drive. There’s a beautiful woman’s face against bright pink roses created by Cloe Hakakian, a pelican wearing a red beanie cap holding a giant fish by Bobby Moore and a Marge Simpson-like character coming for you with fangs by Matt Gondek.
More murals are planned for August, said artist and curator Jason Ostro, who is managing the project along with producer Shlome J. Hayun.
Ostro said the Herondo project was purposefully started without fanfare to give it an organic vibe.
“I’m looking for beauty,” said Ostro, of the project dubbed @redondowalls on Instagram. Ostro said the “community was just so beautifully thankful and every single person who walked by us was just appreciative.”
If all goes well and the artwork remains intact, without graffiti, Pustilnikov said, he hopes to pay for up to 300 murals.
The team is in the process of taking an inventory of the quarter-mile of exterior walls, marking each one with a red number, so future artists will know their spaces. In the next phase, Pustilnikov, Ostro and Hayun plan to add 30 murals.
The project has moved more slowly because of the coronavirus pandemic, but Pustilnikov said he’s fine with taking his time. “We want to do it slow and steady,” he said.
The developer said he eventually envisions opening up the AES site to the public. Perhaps, he said, he’ll add a statue garden, a pop-up food event, even hire musicians to perform. It’ll be a place for artists to gather, he said, and for community members to interact with them.
Pustilnikov’s plan to build a mixed-use development on part of the AES site is subject to a vote of residents.
Redondo Beach Mayor Bill Brand greeted the art project with skepticism, calling it an effort to “endear the residents to their coming big development plan which needs voter approval.”
“While some of the art is a nice visual break,” Brand said via text on Saturday, “I’m more interested in the need of future generations for a real park and wetland plan the new owners said they would bring forward well over a year ago.”
The plant is currently used for emergency power generation, with the State Water Resources Control Board scheduled to determine late this year whether it will be allowed to operate until the end of 2023.
In May, Pustilnikov made waves when he said he would paint over the 100-foot “Gray Whale Migration” mural at the southern end of the power plant. The new plant owner was upset over the artist Wyland’s request for a donation to the Wyland Foundation. Pustilnikov called that “greenmailing” and said Wyland has until August 27 to remove the mural.
Artists who want to be involved in the @redondowalls project’s next phase can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The subject matter, Ostro said, has to be neighborhood friendly — nothing sexual or political.
“It has to be something that people can use,” he said, “to escape from their everyday moments.”