We all need a refuge at times and great art can offer a balm for the senses, relief and lift from life’s trials. Getting outdoors to find the hidden murals of La Jolla delivers that and a lot of fun too.

The places we go to find beauty and solace, like visiting an aquarium and watching the gentle rocking in blue waters full of sea life or meandering through museums, are currently closed. You can visit online but with so much of life being lived via internet wizardry, I for one, crave outdoor experiences – always safely distanced, fully masked, with sanitizer at hand. Walking the village of La Jolla to admire giant murals is also great exercise and free for the effort.

San Diego’s vibrant and fluctuating mural works

San Diego is blessed with a bounty of flourishing and fluctuating mural art collections in neighborhoods across town. (Take a look at the Chicano Art Park in Barrio Logan and the #BLM artwork in La Mesa from earlier posts.) The works flow between spontaneous and studied, mixes of skill and color, story and history. They can inspire wonder, joy and befuddlement. They appear gain notice, may be disfigured, painted over or moved. What makes the La Jolla Mural project unique are the internationally recognized artists and carefully curated content.

Detail from Beatriz Milhazes Gamboa mural in La Jolla

Detail from Beatriz Milhazes Gamboa mural in La Jolla

Brazil arrives in the village

Brazilian artist, Beatriz Milhazes lent her talents to adjust a familiar theme, the changing of seasons. Since La Jolla is blessed with mild weather year round she reflected on more subtle differences. In her interview in the San Diego Tribune she explains how life in Rio de Janeiro influenced her approach to the Southern California climate:

“Summer is the longest sunny schedule with intense high temperatures that explode the natural lights. Spring is softer and about tropical greens and flowers. Autumn is the most beautiful light, the landscapes are bright with clear silhouettes and nice temperatures. Winter is strange when it arrives, not too cold with cloudy and rainy times.”

Black Lives Matter Mural in La Jolla Village

A recent addition in the village that’s not part of the Atheneum mural project.

There are several other hidden murals in La Jolla aside from the Atheneum Project. One alley resplendently supports the Black Lives Matter movement. Two in the Bird Rock area celebrate music and nature. They’re all available for viewing – until they’re not.

The Atheneum, founded by the La Jolla Community Foundation in 1899, is one of 16 non-profit membership libraries in the United States. During traditional years it presents over 200 programs and cultural events around the county. Over the past ten years the Foundation has been selecting artists to transform walls and alleys, each on private properties in collaborations with landlords and the community. Between selection and release is a lengthy process for a series of temporary installations. Most remain only a year or two.

Artists are invited to submit images for specific walls. The first, by Roy McMakin and Kim MacConnel, were painted directly on the buildings but since then vinyl installations are hoisted and painstakingly fixed. Some say they resemble billboards but these are marvels with messaging far more subtle. All of it is made possible by private donations.

Map courtesy of Murals of La Jolla

Hunting for hidden murals in La Jolla

An afternoon hunting the hidden murals in La Jolla is a perfect foil to hours working inside. You don’t need to be an art enthusiast to enjoy it when taken with a dose of sunshine, ocean views and breezes. Young ones with you? Make it a family adventure, a treasure hunt of sorts. I’d recommend downloading a map of the village locations on Dropbox or planning your route through the website. Expect to spend a few hours on your feet and take shelter from the hottest part of the day under umbrellas at any number of outdoor cafes and restaurants.

Roman de Salvo's McCairn mural jest above a Bird Rock auto distribution outlet

Roman de Salvo’s McCairn mural jest above a Bird Rock auto distribution outlet

Art for good and good for art

The Association of American Museums released a report about the health of Museums during the Pandemic. It’s not a pretty picture. One third of museum directors confirmed that there’s a significant risk that they’ll close before the end of 2020. Most of the museums have less than a year’s financial operating reserves left to cover their operations.

Show your appreciation for the hidden murals in La Jolla and help support the efforts of the Atheneum. Savor all 30 of the large scale, public artworks in the privacy of your home by purchasing their new book: Murals of La Jolla. Nearly 200 pages document the first ten years of the project and features the first 30 murals. It includes two essays, La Jolla Views by Susan Morgan and Reframing Community by G. James Daichendt along with artist biographies and a map of locations as of the time of publishing.

Help preserve the beauty and don’t keep the hidden murals in La Jolla a secret.

Monique van Genderen's painting is one of the hidden murals in La Jolla

Monique van Genderen’s painting is one of the hidden murals in La Jolla

If you check out my Instagram feed you’ll see what a sucker I am for outdoor art – the bigger the better and specifically 2-D splashes of color.