Strewn garbage and graffiti-covered walls are commonly found in neglected areas of town. And as far as Beautify Earth is concerned, those ills are invitations for more blight.
“If you have an area that has trash or has an ugly wall that keeps getting tagged, it gives off the impression that the people who live there or the people who own the business don’t really care,” said Heather Rabun, a project manager for the nonprofit public art organization. “It gives an air of apathy.
“As soon as you put some love and care into the area, even if it’s a fresh coat of paint, you notice a shift in the way people carry themselves. There’s community pride. People feel inspired.”
There’s now plenty of inspiration to go around on Pico Boulevard in Santa Monica, which in recent months has become a mural mecca thanks to the efforts of Beautify Earth as well as local civic and community leaders.
The transformation recently touched the front facade of Ed’s Liquor, which now has hummingbirds fluttering on a splashy canvas of blues and whites. The storefront art by Venice-based Christina Angelina accompanies a large mural on the side of the business that sets a black-and-white painting of Brazilian singer-songwriter Claudia Leitte against a brightly colored backdrop.
Beautify Earth sponsored the project, securing the support of Ed’s Liquor owner Ali Wazir and receiving funding from the Pico Improvement Organization as well as from the City of Santa Monica.
“Not only is he improving the facade, but he’s also working on improving the interior as well,” Rabun said of Wazir’s contribution, “with an overall goal of creating a more positive, friendly atmosphere in an area where we see a lot of crime and homelessness and drunkenness.”
The murals at Ed’s Liquor are recent additions to the public art scene of Santa Monica, where Beautify Earth has overseen the creation of more than 50 murals over the last three years.
What started as group founder Evan Meyer’s idea to improve the look of Lincoln Boulevard has expanded throughout and beyond Santa Monica. The organization has since worked on projects in New York, Mississippi and India.
Along the Pico corridor, Meyer’s organization has backed more than a dozen public murals since early 2015. There’s one at Ameritech Signs near 30th Street, another at the CrossFit Reflex gym near 33rd Street and one at Infuse Wellness spa on the same block. Santa Monica High School alumnus Gus Harper completed a series near the Interstate 10 freeway off-ramp near the eastern edge of the city.
Chris Saunders crafted an intricate mural of a tiger at the Goju-Ryu karate studio near 22nd Street. Allison Kunath painted human hands forming the letters of the word “LOVE” at The Brixton near 29th Street. And Brian Allen added artwork to the nearby Pedicure Lounge.
Eye-grabbing art can also be found at Precision Sound (823 Pico Blvd.), Players Club indoor golf studio (3211 Pico Blvd.) and Pico Studio Partners near 21st Street, which features a collaboration by Ruben Rojas and Marcel Blanco.
Beautify Earth has also planned public art projects at Advantage Real Estate (1021 Pico Blvd.), RD Surfboards (3017 Pico Blvd.), UnUrban Coffee House (3301 Pico Blvd.) and the CLARE Foundation.
Advocates said the murals promote pedestrian traffic and help businesses stand out.
“If you can cut that level of blight, people feel better,” Meyer said. “That elevates the general vibe of the world. It’s a stepping stone to a peaceful planet. It’s tangible. You can touch it. It’s real.”