The 225-foot-long Martin Luther King Jr. mural along Highway 94 has finally come to fruition, six years after the project was awarded a $300,000 grant from Caltrans. Artist Philip Matzigkeit was selected for the project back in 2006; after funding delays, attrition of partners and a brutally hot summer painting schedule that began in mid-August and ended on Monday, Matzigkeit will unveil the project on Thursday or Friday, Oct. 4 or 5, when the scaffolding comes down, he says.
"The wall itself is heavily textured," Matzigkeit says, "which limited our approach. It's not paintable by brush."
The major design challenge became how a portrait of Dr. King would work on the wall and be visible to cars traveling at high speed. A solution presented itself when Matzigkeit, who's a drafting professor at SDSU, saw fellow art instructor Neil Shigley's woodblock prints of the civil-rights icon from a past project. CityBeat profiled Shigley recently for his homelessness project, Invisible People.
Matzigkeit had the bold, woodblock printing on his mind already, so the pairing of the two artists was serendipitous. Only, woodblock printing wasn't feasible for a project of this size and scale—one of three portraits of King is 20 feet tall—so Shigley used stencils instead, to create the effect.
"It was quite an honor to be touching that wall and all that went into it," Shigley says.