Visit Oakland will pay artists to create murals in new program

Visit Oakland, the nonprofit that markets the city as a destination, is looking for artists to create murals on walls and spaces donated by businesses or property owners.

It is launching the Visit Oakland Public Mural Grant Program.

Fernando Santos grew up in East Oakland. The middle school art teacher is a part-time mural artist.

"Oakland made me who I am. Oakland made me the artist that I am," says Santos. 

His artwork is on a wall on the side of HSD Engineering at the corner of Bancroft and 109th Avenue.

He describes his artwork. "You coming over the bridge from San Francisco. You see the cranes.  You see downtown. The Tribune represents downtown. You see Oracle."

The 34-year- old used to spray paint graffiti as a teenager.  But as an adult, he says he's found a productive way to express his love for Oakland.

He creates murals commissioned by businesses and schools.

Visit Oakland is looking for homegrown artists such as Santos. It will pay anywhere from $500 to $5,000  depending on the size and scope of the mural.

"We're looking for projects that promote Oakland culture, Oakland history," says Ben Taylor of Visit Oakland.   

The group is asking the artist to partner with a business that has a blank wall when submitting an application for the program. 

The artist creates the work, the business provides the canvas.

"We want these to be love letters to the city telling the world what's special about this city," says Taylor.
Visit Oakland says murals gracing various walls around the city have proven to be attractions for tourists and locals. 

Last year, Visit Oakland debuted the mural "the selfie wall" in front of the Oakland Marriott City Center.
The group also approached and sponsored the murals on the Independent Brewing Company located in the Jack London Warehouse district. .

"It's turned a big blank wall into something beautiful," says Peter Boyd, co-owner of the Independent Brewing Company.

Boyd says a partnership between merchants and artists is good business for both.

"It will give local artists who are having a hard time with the cost of rent and living a project that will enable them to show their pride and hopefully stay here." says Boyd.

As for Santos, the art teacher, he'd love to create art full-time. He plans to apply for the program.

"Give us a chance to do beautiful work for our city, " says Santos,"I want to beautify my city.  Do what I love."

Visit Oakland says preference will be given to Oakland-based artists or those with a history of supporting Oakland.   

The nonprofit hopes to fund at least five new murals with this new program.