Modesto, located 92 miles east of San Francisco and 66 miles west of Yosemite National Park, is part of California's Central Valley. It is surrounded by rich farmland, which is immediately apparent even before you get into town, as the subtle scent of bovine wafts through the air.
The Modesto Sign, painted by the Gospel Graffiti Crew
Beyond the farms, the city actually has a fair bit to offer, especially for the street art/graff enthusiast, as I was soon to discover on a recent visit. Much of the work in town is there largely because of a single artist who calls Modesto home.
Born and raised in Modesto, Fasm has been a graffiti writer with the Lords Crew, along with the likes of Nychos and Ernest Doty, and has since been part of the Gospel Graffiti Crew, a faith-based graffiti crew which recently celebrated 20 years of membership. In addition, he created the annual cultural affair known as the Fasm Creative Battle, a curated mural competition in Downtown Modesto. The winner of this year's battle took home a cash prize of $3,000! (2nd place left with $700 and 3rd with $300)
This past September marked the 6th anniversary of the event, and what a great lineup it was, featuring both local and international artists. The roster included Royyal Dog (Korea), Camer1 (San Francisco), Phat1 (New Zealand), Paydirt (Sacramento), Pilot (Texas), Souler (Guatemala) and Fluro (New Zealand).
Walls from this year's Battle
Phat1 (Charles Williams) from New Zealand (1st Place)
Although from New Zealand, Phat1 painted a Bald Eagle soaring over the American Flag. The flag has a few additions,
including nods to some of graffitis legends, including Revok, Dondi and even Keith Haring.
Royyal Dog from Korea (2nd Place)
Painting a portrait of "The Korean Zombie", UFC Fighter Chan Sung Jung.
Camer1 (Cameron Moberg) from San Francisco (3rd Place)
Going outside of his comfort zone, Camer1 painted this strong, vibrant woman, 25 feet tall.
Fluro (hollyrocck) from New Zealand
Words Are Weapons. What we say has the power to create or destroy.
Paydirt (Kinetic Ideas) from Sacramento
Painting a woman rising from the ground covered in California poppies
Pilot from Texas
Painting a Blue-Winged Kookaburra in the midst of a wildfire.
Souler from Guatemala
Painting a Guatemalan woman in traditional clothing.
Filmmaker George Lucas immortalized his home town of Modesto in the award-wining 1973 film American Graffiti, which inspired a revival of 1950s pop culture, bringing with it hot rods and classic cars, which play a prominent role in some of the murals around town.
In addition to the nostalgia of the classic cars, there are also several walls that were painted as part of the Murals in Mo'Town Project, whose mission is to bring art and culture to the city of Modesto.
While cruising around Modesto, you will probably be hungry or thirsty at some point. A great spot to remedy both, as well as enjoy a bit of art by Fasm and his friends, is Churchkey, located at 910 12th Street. They have a wide selection of pizzas, salads and burgers as well as 32 taps of American craft and European suds.
I opted for the Cowboy Cobb Salad, paired with the Eggs & Bacon Pizza and washed it all down with one of their delicious IPAs. The restaurant is spacious with several pieces of art on the walls as well as a fully-painted patio in the backyard to enjoy on sunny days.
If you are on your way to check out the natural beauty of nearby Yosemite National Park or planning a weekend getaway in San Francisco, you may just want to make a stop in Modesto to catch some beautiful art and a meal along the way. You will be surprised by art and culture just waiting to be discovered in this city in the heart of the Central Valley. And if you plan it right, you may be lucky to catch an art battle!