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  • Words and Photos by John Domine

On the Road: Long Beach, CA

Long Beach, located in the southeastern portion of Los Angeles County in Southern California, is known for its sunny skies and busy shipping port (among the world's biggest). But largely, it has been overshadowed by the sprawl of Los Angeles to the north and the beach communities of Huntington and Newport to the south.

In 2015, with hopes of putting the city on the map on a global level, the town council created the "Innovation Team", launching several initiatives to make it easier for small business owners to open and thrive. Their vision was to transform Long Beach into a city of opportunity. They wanted it to become a destination in an of itself. All eyes are on Long Beach these days. And I think they are on to something.

Mural by Vyal in Downtown Long Beach

The city has been trying to reinvent itself and has done this in a variety of ways, not least of which has been a strong focus on implementing an incredible visual arts presence that has not only instilled local pride through the creations of local artists but has also brought in international artists to make Long Beach a world-class city with regard to its public artworks. Through such programs as the Pow Wow Mural Festival, the "Dreamers in Long Beach" Project through the Street Artist in Residence Program, and the Cambodia Town Mural Project , the urban landscape has gotten a serious facelift in recent years.

For the past three years, the city of Long Beach has been host to the Pow Wow Mural Festival. The walls feature works by globally-renowned artists such as Dulk, Tatiana Suarez, Nosego, and Telmo Miel, as well as local talents like Nate Frizzell, Ezra One, and Dave Van Patten. Together, these artists have transformed the urban landscape of this coastal community to a vibrant living gallery of art and beauty.

Here are some of the works currently up from this amazing event:

The Street Artist in Residence program, which is a non-profit organization dedicated to maximizing exposure to international street artists, recently completed their "Dreamers in Long Beach" project at 706 North Golden. This mural collaboration came into being after the Trump Administration announced its plan to scrap DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). Those protected under the umbrella of DACA are known as "Dreamers". There are currently just under 800,000 such "Dreamers" who have been granted approval, whose future will come under turmoil in March 2018 when the U.S. is expected to rescind the program. Most "Dreamers" are from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, with the largest numbers residing in California, Texas, Florida and New York. The project is intended to bring attention to their plight.

Here is some of the work form this project:

In addition to the walls of the Pow Wow Mural Festival and the "Dreamers" Project, there is the recently-completed Cambodia Town Mural Project, which launched in 2016, installing several murals in the neighborhood between Anaheim Street and Orange Avenue, which has a large Cambodian immigrant population. The project hopes to instill pride in the local community through beautification of its public spaces.

Beyond the scope of these community-sponsored programs, there is much other work to be found on the streets of Long Beach, some of which has been commissioned, either publicly or privately, and some which has been put up illegally, but nonetheless adds to the beauty of the urban landscape of this Southern Californian city.

Here are some of those works:

So, if you are headed to Long Beach for a getaway, soak up the sun and enjoy the surf, but take a day or two to check out the amazing art to be found on its streets. You won't be disappointed. What are you waiting for?

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