MURAL MAGIC: Artist Kristel Lerman honors the environment and the Chumash culture. (Photo courtesy Matthew Hynes)

Forgive me for complaining, but I can’t remember when Ocean Park Boulevard was not under construction. (That goes for my apartment building, too, but that’s another column.) City officials swear the road work began in December 2011, but it feels like they started while Reagan was still president. Frankly, it’s a virtual beast driving on Ocean Park Boulevard between Main Street and Lincoln.

I’m not saying traffic is slow on O.P., but just in the time it took me to come home from Albertsons, the expiration date on my milk came and went. (Drum roll, please.)

They say when the work is all done it will have been worth it because the street will be gorgeous and green. I suppose the seemingly leisurely pace of the work is to allow the trees they’ve planted to reach full size before the street is finished.

I don’t mean to point fingers (as I go ahead and do just that), but I never see workers actually, for lack of a better term, working! And, while I know it must be there, I don’t notice any discernible progress. Perhaps part of my problem is that, as I maneuver on O.P., I’m too busy concentrating on avoiding the “million cone march,” the obstacle course that passes for a thoroughfare.

One person I do see working, and from whom there is eye-pleasing progress, is muralist extraordinaire Kristel Lerman. (Pictured above, and from herein known as the “beauty” of this piece.) Kristel, inspired by a vision in her sleep, has created a mural masterpiece on the southeast corner of O.P. and Main Street that honors the Chumash tribe, as well as the environment. (Not to mention diverting our eyes from pot holes and construction road signs.)

With “a little help from her friends” (20 middle and high school kids from Inside Out Community Arts in Venice) Kristel has given Ocean Park a much needed “makeover,” or will have in the next few weeks when she’s done with her mesmerizing mural.

The mural covers the north facing exterior wall of ZJ Boarding House, Main Street’s popular surf, skate and snow shop for over 25 years. After seeing Kristel’s impressive “Buddha” mural (in the parking lot south of Chinois) Todd Roberts, one of ZJ’s owners, commissioned her to ply her magic.

While kudos go to Kristel for artistic talent and vision (more on that later) and to Todd for commissioning the project, hats off to Executive Director of Education Varina Bleil and the folks at Inside Out, a highly-respected nonprofit.

Inside Out works with at-risk youth throughout Los Angeles (including Santa Monica, Venice and Mar Vista) and involves them in artistic endeavors such as media workshops and visual and performing arts. Kristel, who has painted two other Santa Monica murals (and is booked for others) worked with the students on shading and lighting technique, as well as actual painting.

“These kids went on a journey from a blank wall to a certain goal,” Kristel says enthusiastically, “and they got to see how it came together, layer by layer, which is the most incredible feeling that you can have.”

Credit also goes to SelectNY, a global branding and advertising agency, which decided to fund the artistic endeavor shortly upon opening its Santa Monica office last year. “Inside Out has years of experience working with at-risk kids and their curriculum is outstanding,” responded Managing Director Angela Pih.

This summer, Kristel not only taught kids the fine points in the art of mural painting, she also took them to Malibu to meet Chumash elders, whose ancestors populated the region for centuries.

Kaylin, 12, one of the kids from Inside Out, recalls her visit. “It was really touching how they’re so close to the earth and their ceremonies are really interesting,” she said.

Interestingly enough, when Kristel met the Chumash chief, a woman named Lahuey, the two had almost identical “visions” of the proposed mural.

“The mural will be homage to environmental protection,” Kristel says. “We will also have the figure of a Chumash-inspired woman in the center, along with the image of a pelican, the ocean and a seascape.”

Inasmuch as the mural does not yet have a name, Kristel invites residents to come see it for themselves and, if so inspired, submit their own title.

When it’s completed in early September, Lahuey will come and bless the mural. (As I, in my own way, on Dec. 31, will “bless” the street construction when it’s supposed to be done, although I don’t imagine our two “rituals” will quite be the same!)

 

To submit titles for Kristel’s mural, e-mail Jack at jnsmdp@aol.com.