The south wall of the Grove Liquor Store on the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Way and Ashby Avenue will soon serve as an artistic representation of South Berkeley—a collaboration between neighborhood activists and nearby Epic Arts Studio.
The effort began more than a year ago when local resident Eve Cowan decided to create a mural at the site., enlisting the help of Epic Arts staff members. Now the studio provides space for meetings, financial sponsorship, and administrative and legal help for the project.
The art studio, located at 1923 Ashby Ave., sets out to “build community partnerships, mobilize local artists, produce cultural events, and develop resources and facilities which support greater education, production and participation in the arts,” according to the group’s mission statement.
In producing the mural, called “South Berkeley Shines,” they hope to beautify the neighborhood and encourage community participation.
“It was a perfect match,” said Epic Arts director of development Tanya Hurd.
The mural will display scenes from the neighborhood including the Thai Buddhist Temple, the South Berkeley Community Garden, the South Berkeley Library, La Peña Café and the Black Repertory Theater. Several local artists will work together on the project, with each using a different type of paint for their part of the collage.
For now, Epic Arts staff members and area activists are finishing the plans for the mural and soliciting donations to fund the project. The core group, which involves eight neighbors, meets every week with other interested participants to work on specific tasks to make the mural a reality.
Grove Liquor Store has a donation jar on their front counter, and mural organizers are also gathering leftover paint from people’s homes.
“The response has been incredible,” Hurd said. “People have been dropping
five dollar bills saying ‘if I give more, will it happen quicker?’”
Hurd said that with an additional $200, the team should have enough financial support to at least begin the project.
Now, the main obstacle for the mural organizers is gaining a permit for their artwork. Because the wall for the mural faces Ashby Avenue—which is California State Highway 13—the California Department of Transportation must approve the project. Hurd said she has made several attempts to contact CalTrans, but that she has not had a response. Nonetheless, Hurd said the group hopes to begin painting the wall later this month.
“I think it’s good that they’re going to make it a more beautiful area,” neighbor Shelly Harper said. “We could use something that reminds us that South Berkeley does indeed shine.”