For one of the smaller San Diego burgs, University Heights does seem to have a noticeable amount of public murals. Outside of more street-art-friendly neighborhoods like Barrio Logan, University Heights was one of the first uptown areas to embrace spray paint beautification.
While not everyone knows him by name, Dave "Persue" Ross has long been one of the go-to graffiti artists and muralists in town. He's probably most recognized by his signature BunnyKitty character that he's painted all over the city. But when he and three other local artists—Eyemax, Dexx and Kuya—began work on the mural on the side of Park Boulevard Foods near the corner of Park and Monroe Avenue, Ross says he wanted to try something a little different.
"I painted the girl and Dexx painted her wings. It was the first time I painted such a character," Ross says. "I should have painted BunnyKitty, but I was probably tired of painting her on that particular day."
Nearly four years later, the result has become somewhat of a selfie staple in the neighborhood, with everyone from hippies to hipsters stopping to snap a pic in front of the psychedelic looking fairy. Ross says there were no blueprints for the mural and that it took about eight hours and 10 cans of spray paint to fully complete. Still, while Ross says he's proud of what he calls the "community service" piece, he also remembers not getting paid much.
"Unless you count sandwiches as a form of payment," says Ross, who adds that while he agreed to do the piece for free, he feels the popularity of murals could be a double-edged sword for artists.
"I have been doing work like this for close to 30 years so I've seen neighborhoods change a lot," he says. I think with the popularity of this type of work, and people's knowledge of the artist, that owners of businesses are more open to this type of work on their buildings. We are seeing it worldwide with all the mural festivals. If developers want to gentrify a certain neighborhood, they usually invite artists to start painting the walls. The only issue is that there's seldom any real money in it. That is where it needs to change. The artist needs to be taken more seriously and put in the community's budget for beautification purposes."