If you’re looking for some news that’s literally bright and colorful amidst the doom and gloom of pandemic updates, check this out: In the San Francisco Bay Area, artists are taking to the city’s quiet streets to paint murals on the facades of now-empty stores, restaurants, bars and other local businesses.
The plywood planks currently boarding up storefronts make for inviting blank canvases for the Bay Area’s local artists, and a new initiative called Paint the Void seeks to connect these artists with shuttered businesses in need of some temporary exterior decoration.
In the Hayes Valley section of San Francisco, one artist has covered a boarded-up storefront with brightly painted flowers — bringing splashes of color to what would otherwise be a plain wooden entryway covering.
As the caption on the very first Instagram post by Paint the Void explains, “Rather than allowing plywood to highlight fear and uncertainty we want to decorate our streets with art to reflect an optimistic perspective. Art helps us contextualize our life experience.”
“We thought that beautifying the streets with murals would be a good place for people who are still working the frontlines and getting out there every day,” Meredith Winner, organizer of Paint the Void told Real Simple. “We wanted to bring hope into the community and inspire people.”
Paintings like this one outside of San Francisco’s Dogpatch Saloon would certainly be inspiring to come upon during your daily walk around the block. The mural, posted to Instagram by Paint the Void, shows President Franklin D. Roosevelt in profile next to a variation of his famous quote, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
In addition to beautifying the city during this time of grim uncertainty, Paint the Void is also fundraising to provide aid to artists experiencing financial strain due to the pandemic.
Of course, San Francisco isn’t the only city whose artists are emerging from the woodwork to … paint the woodwork. The storefronts of Seattle are getting colorful makeovers as well, with murals popping up on pizzerias, coffee shops, bars and more.
Local artists Kate Blackstock and Frida Clements painted this calming natural scene over the boards covering up Tractor Tavern, a Seattle music venue. According to Slate, the venue’s owner asked Blackstone to contribute art and she agreed.
“It was so jarring and heartbreaking to see all these businesses boarded up,” Blackstone told Slate. “I was excited to be able to put some love on one of the places where I feel most at home.”
Seattle artist Glynn Rosenberg has painted several storefronts featuring vibrant flowers and optimistic messages, like “until next time” and “see you soon.” She told Slate that street art is especially important right now, as it can bring joy and foster connection while so many people are living in isolation.
“Bringing artists to the street increases access to art,” she explained to Slate. “The pandemic has made existing inequity more extreme, so it is really important to serve the community in whatever capacity we are capable.”
And Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood coffee shop, Capitol Coffee Works, now depicts a lively scene that may very well be the reality for many cat-owners who are sheltering in place with their frantic feline friends.
Further down the west coast, the artist known as Pony Wave spraypainted a reminder to Venice Beach residents to “stay safe.” Her artwork, shown here behind her in this Instagram post, depicts two people kissing while wearing masks.
In another corner of Los Angeles, residents can spot a painting of soldiers battling the pandemic while armed with toilet paper, cleaning supplies and hand sanitizer.
An image of the mural by Hijack Art appears on the artist’s Instagram page, captioned with a quote by Neil Degrasse Tyson: “As humans, we like to think we are in charge of our own corner of the universe. But every now and then a microscopic entity reminds us that we are not.”
Over in Denver, street artist Austin Zucchini-Fowler completed a “wall of gratitude” meant to honor chefs, servers, bar staff and other “hospitality heroes.”
This Instagram image of the artist’s work shows a painting of a chef wearing a face mask and wielding a pizza peel next to the words, “It’s gonna all be okay.”
Pandemic-inspired street art has also appeared in Germany’s capital city. Berlin artist Eme Freethinker created a mural depicting Gollum from “The Lord of the Rings” coveting a precious roll of toilet paper that is being spirited away by “Ice Age” squirrel, Scrat.
Elsewhere around the world, street art has popped up to honor and thank the medical professionals risking everything to care for patients infected with COVID-19.
One wall in Melbourne, Australia has now become an homage to the “frontline heroes” in medical facilities, bearing the weight of the world as they battle the coronavirus.
In London, professional street artist David Speed and the Graffiti Life collective produced this mural of a medical worker wearing a face mask, to express appreciation for the brave people working for the NHS (National Health Service).
Another artist based in England, Rachel List, has taken to the streets to express her gratitude for NHS workers by painting murals that burst with color and affection.
The mural in this Instagram image portrays a masked medical worker as an angel with rainbow wings.
What a beautiful way for artists around the world to connect with their neighbors and show their love for local businesses and essential workers. Have you seen any new street art in your community?