Arts & Theater

Bee parking garage to become temporary art canvas

The “Street Art Mural Jam” invites local and regional artists to paint a portion of the Sacramento Bee’s parking structure before its topped with some 270 apartments. The art will be visible from Oct. 21 event until the structure’s facade is removed later this year.
The “Street Art Mural Jam” invites local and regional artists to paint a portion of the Sacramento Bee’s parking structure before its topped with some 270 apartments. The art will be visible from Oct. 21 event until the structure’s facade is removed later this year. Ed Fletcher

The exterior of the two-story Sacramento Bee parking garage – in the heart of a fast-growing midtown neighborhood – will become a temporary outdoor canvas for local and regional artists, arts curator David Sobon announced over the weekend.

Participating artists will have one day – Oct. 21 – to paint a portion of the garage, which is a city block southwest of the intersection of 21st and Q streets, during the Street Art Mural Jam.

Unlike Sobon’s Wide Open Walls mural festival, artists should not expect their work to last long. The creations will not be accessible after work begins later this year on The Press, a 273-unit apartment building to be built on the site.

The development group led by Sotiris Kolokotronis purchased the garage in December 2016 for $5.7 million. Kolokotronis said the total value of the project will be north of $100 million.

Sobon’s Wide Open Walls mural festival won local and some national acclaim as the city embraces art as a means of shedding the “government town” label. Over more than a week, artists painted huge exterior walls and parking structures.

The Street Art Mural Jam invites artists to join in a one-day art party with food trucks, a beer garden, music and a kid play zone. Sobon said there will be some art stars there, but he also wants to see schoolkids and beginning artists have an opportunity to paint. The parking structure’s exterior walls will be divided into more than 200 places to paint, Sobon said.

“There will be a heck of lot of creativity in one space,” he said.

Sobon said he hopes to have all of the locations assigned before the event.

White paint lines and numbers have already been painted on the red-brick garage. Within weeks of the event, Kolokotronis said construction teams will remove the exterior facade as they prepare to reinforce the structure. Apartment units will sit where the open-air second story parking is now, leaving one floor of underground parking. He said he hopes to complete the project in the second quarter of 2019.

“The developer has given us permission to paint anything and everything,” Sobon said.

The event will be the latest in a series of Sacramento temporary art events. Art Hotel (2016) and Art Street (2017), curated by the M5 Arts group, invited artists to create three-dimensional art spaces.

While generally applauded, some have questioned whether efforts like Art Street and Wide Open Walls are used to obscure the gentrification of neighborhoods.

Sobon said the “art washing” label doesn’t apply. Nobody is being forced out of anywhere, he said.

“It was a parking lot,” Sobon said.

Sacramento artist Teresa Gutierrez said her group, the ARTners Collaborative, is excited to participate. More than a dozen artists associated with the group teamed up to paint a large retaining wall in Improv Alley, which runs parallel to I and J streets, between Seventh and Eighth streets.

Her group learned a lot about human nature while painting their series of panels on the theme “Humanity,” she said.

“We learned about humanity at its fullness. There are a lot of homeless that live in that ally,” Gutierrez said. “They are suffering.”

She said she recently walked around the parking garage and based on what she saw she doesn’t expect to displace anyone.

Kolokotronis said while it’s premature to start renting apartment units – or talk about prices – the art jam will tell people that “something unique is happening in the area.” The units will be offered at “market rate,” he said.

“It’s the biggest thing happening in midtown forever,” Kolokotronis said.

The Press is one of several significant developments under way in midtown. More than 600 housing units, a new park and restaurants are under construction within three blocks of 19th and Q streets. Kolokotronis is involved in the 20PQR and Q19 town home projects. City leaders are pushing for affordable housing as Sacramento experiences rental rate increases that are some of the highest in the nation.

Ed Fletcher: 916-321-1269, @NewsFletch

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