Artist Skye Walker recently finished a new, large-scale mural covering the front of the California Coast Credit Union at the corner of University Avenue and Vermont Street in Hillcrest. Walker, whose piece "Transmarine" is featured on CityBeat's cover this week, is the first of eight to 10 local artists who'll be completing new murals as part of the transformation of the Uptown District Shopping Center into The Hub | Hillcrest Market.
A few years ago, Regency Centers bought the shopping center and enlisted the help of late architect Graham Downes and designer Don Hollis in renovating and revamping the old space. Part of Downes' vision included several murals, and he recommended hiring Zack Nielsen, who formerly ran the arts nonprofit Sezio to help select the artists. The mural project went on hiatus after Downes was murdered last year, but Nielsen says things are back on track, and artists like EXIST1981, Mike Maxwell and Isaias Crow are already lined up to complete work.
Walker, a freelance illustrator, designer and muralist whose work can be spotted at several Whole Foods Markets in the region, says he's been digging the mural commissions he's scored lately (he just won another bid for a project and will start a mural at the Boys & Girls Club of Carlsbad next month, adding to a growing number of murals coloring walls in Carlsbad Village). While murals might not be as lucrative as his other commercial work, Walker says he prefers the experience of publicly accessible art.
"To create work on that scale and engage people at that level is a completely different thing than painting something for someone's home," he says. "To see people light up and say, 'Hey, this is cool,' or even the people who don't like it—to get people thinking about and talking about art is awesome. I think murals inspire people, especially kids, and they can inspire communities to elevate things to a different level."