July 6 2016 02:15 PM

Chef and artist Cody Griffith talks about that big purple elephant in Hillcrest

Cody Griffith and his elephant
Photo by Seth Combs

A monthly feature where we track down the stories behind San Diego’s most colorful murals.

Murals have come and gone in Hillcrest over the years, with many of them disappearing as fast as some of the neighborhood’s restaurants and bars. Back in 2012, the Crest Café was celebrating just the opposite. The brunch mainstay was about to turn 30 years old and owner Cecelia Moreno was looking to celebrate the milestone by coloring up the alley wall on the side of the restaurant. Cody Griffith saw an ad on Craigslist and quickly contacted Moreno about the job.

“She really dug the work that I had done before,” Griffith says, referring to murals he’d previously done in San Diego, as well ones in Baltimore and Ocean Springs, Mississippi, where he grew up. “She wanted something that celebrated 30 years, but also celebrated the neighborhood.”

Considering the neighborhood and that the mural was to be unveiled close to Pride weekend, Griffith could have easily played it safe with a mural that was rainbow-centric rather than a big purple and pink elephant. He says he chose the animal for very good reasons.

“I wanted something iconic and stoic,” Griffith says. “I think that Hillcrest is malleable and changeable, but it has stood the test of time. It’s eclectic and kooky, so yes, the mural is an elephant, but that elephant has a very Tahitian, circus look to it. He has a lot of flair.”

Since the Crest Café mural, he’s landed more jobs working with design company Bells & Whistles and also created a mural for the Bankers Hill restaurant Barrio Star, where he works as the chef. He says he’s always open to doing more murals, but that his many responsibilities and projects (he’s also working on an “epic sci-fi fantasy” novel) keep him very busy.

“For me, murals should always be something that hopefully will be around forever,” Griffith says. “You can have something silly or you can have something that’s resonating. That’s what I’m interested in.”

Have a mural in your neighborhood and want to know where it came from? Leave us a comment on this story or on our Facebook page and we’ll see what we can find out.


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