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Oakland Natives Paint Beauty, Hope In Void Left by Coronavirus

Artistic Inspiration

This year has been all sorts of topsy turvy yet — while COVID upended how we previously lived — it unveiled new forms of creativity and art. Case in point: the 100-plus new murals that grace walls and storefronts around San Francisco and the East Bay.

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The site “Before.” Photo credit: Peter Pendergrass


Among the pandemic’s adverse repercussions are the temporary and/or permanent closure of businesses, leaving communities tarnished by boarded-up storefronts. That’s where Northern California-based, art
nonprofit Paint the Void stepped in by partnering Bay Area artists with local shuttered storefronts to create murals as a response to the void left. The goal: empower artists and uplift communities.

“The process keeps artists at work; beautifies the neighborhoods all across the Bay Area; and gives small-business owners a new lease of hope, drawing the local community into the conversation at every opportunity,” said Paint the Void Co-Founder and Executive Director Shannon Riley.

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In a recent collaboration, Paint the Void partnered with Bay Together, a Gensler Architecture volunteer group, as well as affordable housing developer Resources for Community Development (RCD), whose future affordable housing site in Oakland was in need of beautification. Artists Timothy Bluitt, better known as TiMOthy B, and Tion “Bukue” Torrence were matched to this particular site where they have a special connection both live and work in the neighborhood. “They are well-known and respected artists, and their work inspires,” Riley said.

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TiMOthy B. Photo credit: Lisa Vortman


Dunn-Edwards supplied the paint, while RCD provided the artists the phrase “Housing for All” as an anchor for their creative vision. From there, the artists had creative license and merged their talents — blending TiMOthy B’s vibrant colors and Afro-futuristic designs with Bukue’s penchant for graphic lettering. The interplay of their art forms is, in Bukue’s words, "a great one-two combination” that envision the future of Oakland, seen through the eyes of Oakland natives.

For his mural, TiMOthy B. opted for an array of vibrant Dunn-Edwards hues as a way “to help highlight certain things in society I feel deserve to be seen and questioned,” he said. Overall, Dunn-Edwards’ unique color choices matched well with what TiMOthy B envisioned for the project. “I really like how the paint bonded with the brushes, which made the strokes smoother and more fluid. It blended well, and I look forward to working with Dunn-Edwards in the near future.”

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Photo credit: Lisa Vortman


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Photo credit: Ingrid Becker


For both artists, the project represents a full circle act of community involvement. “Having Oakland-based artists beautify Oakland is, to me, essential to not losing the culture of the town,” Bukue said. “During unrest, a pandemic or social upheaval, doing our community duty is to paint beautiful, powerful messages to help ease the spirit and connect with the people. We are visual healers as music is sonically."

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Tion Bukue. Photo credit: Lisa Vortman


Bay Together’s volunteer group rounded out the support team, painting an out-building on the site with a whimsical yellow and blue graphic mural.

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Photo credit: Ingrid Becker


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Photo credit: Ingrid Becker


In this time of uncertainty and disconnection, Bukue believes more than ever in the power of art to uplift and connect people together. “Oakland natives painting imagery and messages for Oakland gives all of us a sense of connection, pride and empowerment. Times right now in Oakland are changing, people are a little uneasy, not knowing if they will be included in the New Oakland. Seeing our work let's them know that ‘Yes, you are included, you will be represented and heard,'” he said.

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Photo credit: Peter Pendergrass


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Bay Together volunteers. Photo credit: Fabiola Catalan


Want to see other ways artists are using Dunn-Edwards’ colorful hues for civic projects and outdoor spaces? Take a peek at the transformation of old Palm Springs public benches into bold, pop-style artwork and Las Vegas warehouses into large scale graphic murals.