Isla Vista Mural Project, Urban Art Workshop and local property owners work together to bring back traditional Isla Vista character and inspire future artwork in a New Yorker inspired mural. The mural can be found on the backside of the Plaza Lofts apartment building in the Giovanni’s parking lot.
Urban Art Workshop — a collaboration between Isla Vista artists, students and landlords — will unveil their latest creation this Monday, when local community members will gather for an evening of food and fun in celebration of the neighborhood’s newest art piece.
The mural — part of the Isla Vista Mural Project’s series of student-illustrated murals — will make its debut from 4 to 5 p.m. at the Giovanni’s parking lot at 909 Embarcadero del Mar. Designed after a traditional, well-known New Yorker magazine cover that depicts the world from the perspective of New York City, the new mural offers a look at the world from the view of I.V. The UCSB Urban Art Workshop conveys this theme by featuring common local landmarks — such as Storke Tower and the Santa Barbara missions — in juxtaposition with major international locations, like the Channel Islands or countries of Indonesia and Japan.
According to Tim Werner, owner of the building that the mural is painted on, the community mural was an idea that first developed six to seven years ago, even though it only recently actually came to fruition.
“I’m familiar with the murals that have existed throughout Isla Vista’s history, and I really thought that would be a perfect location for one,” Werner said.
The property owner also said he hopes the art piece will serve as an inspiration for future projects in other areas of I.V., “We’re the pilot project … hopefully other development projects will follow and we’ll be able to make Isla Vista a better place,” Werner said.
Jenn Birchim, marketing and administrative services coordinator for the Community Housing Office, said the urban art workshop first began when office intern Kat Frazer suggested resurrecting I.V. murals that have been painted over. After partnering up Ann Hefferman, a local artist and assistant and supervisor at Davidson Library, the Urban Art Workshop was born.
For Birchim, the recent art collaborations have the power to bring the artistic culture of I.V. back to life — an important accomplishment given the many efforts that have been made to cover up I.V.’s iconic, but underappreciated, murals, she said.
“It’s kind of trying to bring art back,” Birchim said. “Many of the buildings in Isla Vista, like the Bob Marley house [or] the mermaid house, are becoming icon[s] and a lot of them are being painted over,” Birchim said. “So, we’re really kind of spearheading this thing to bring that character back to the houses here.”
Giovanni’s owner Matt Meczka said the mural not only beautifies the area around his pizzeria, but also increases the general amount of traffic the restaurant receives.
“Over the summer, we’ve had a lot of students … coming by and taking pictures on their iPhones, doing the whole panoramic thing … and a lot of parents coming over,” Meczka said.
The entirely student-made mural can also serve as a potential deterrent to local vandalism, Meckza said, “No one will tag over that because it looks amazing. Instead of a plain wall, it depicts Isla Vista and UCSB … it brightens up a very dull wall.”
A version of this article appeared on page 3 of the September 26, 2013 print issue.
Photo Courtesy of kcet.org