From downtown to the hills, Berkeley boasts amazing street art. Though each piece is different, they all tell a story about Berkeley.
The wall of Amoeba music is home to the People’s History of Telegraph, one of Berkeley’s most famous historic murals. The piece was designed by Osha Neumann, a local civil rights lawyer, and painted by O’Brien Thiele, Janet Kranzberg, Daniel Galvez, and others in 1976. It depicts several scenes associated with the Free Speech Movement that began on campus at the University of California, Berkeley. These include anti-war protests, the emergence of the Black Panther Party, and the People’s Park protest in May of 1969.
In 2003, Epic Arts, a Berkeley non-profit, gathered citizens of South Berkeley to paint a mural on the south wall of the Grove Liquor Store.
The project became known as South Berkeley Shines. The idea was simple: have each artist fill in a letter to spell out the word “shines.” Then, neighbors had the opportunity to add their own touch, whether that be the paw print of a dog or a handprint.
Monika Lea Jones was one of the artists who took part in this community project, filling in the letters H and E with art inspired by the churches and spiritual communities surrounding the mural. “The halal reference was to honor the shop we had chosen for our location. The corner store generously offered their wall and served the community with food, including halal food for Muslims. It was great to see the diversity of religions side by side,” Lea Jones said.
Down in Southwest Berkeley, a mural named Living Without Borders/Vivir Sin Fronteras sits on the walls of the Mexican market Mi Tierra Foods.
The mural was created by Juana Alicia, a local artist, and a group of students from the True Colors Mural Program at Berkeley Community College. Images of Native women provide viewers with some history of those who were here originally, such as the Ohlone, and the patterned cloth highlights integration. The overarching idea of gentrification — the changing of neighborhoods as a result of an increase in affluent residents and businesses — is strong in the mural, showing how gentrification often creates powerful unseen borders as opposed to physical ones, dictating what and who is allowed within a location. The mural truly shows how activism and art can come together and make a difference.
Though street art and murals may not be displayed in fancy museums, the street art of Berkeley tells a powerful story about the city.