Arts & Theater

Wide Open Walls: ‘We paint walls to bring people in, we do not build walls to keep people out’

Mural festival Wide Open Walls kicked off Thursday for the third year on a message of inclusivity and diversity.

“In Sacramento, we paint walls to bring people in, we do not build walls to keep people out. End of story,” said Mayor Darrell Steinberg, one of several community leaders in attendance at the California Auto Museum in Old Town Sacramento.

Steinberg; Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento; and festival organizer David Sobon celebrated the festival’s 10-day run featuring 40 new permanent murals from a diverse group of 55 local and international artists.

Around them, a half-dozen participants were already hands-deep in paint to create one of the festival’s first 2019 artworks, a monumental ‘California’ mural on the car museum’s back wall sponsored by Dignity Health.

Painting the letter A was three-time Wide Open Walls artist Aizik Brown, seeking to promote peace and love for nature. He told The Sacramento Bee on Thursday that the festival is a chance for international and local artists to come together and inspire each other.

Brown started off as a volunteer in 2017. Last year, he painted one of the 37 murals that transformed our city’s streets into conversation starters and tourist destinations.

Chinese Sacramento resident and female artist Fei Lin, another returning artist, said Wide Open Walls is an opportunity to inspire future generations of Asian women to express themselves through art.

This year, Lin is painting Asian anime and a harpy – a half-woman, half-bird mythological creature which is part of both Asian and European cultural heritages and symbolizes freedom.

“When you put (ideas) together with art, people understand, some of the differences don’t become as harsh” Matsui said standing by the artists. “In Sacramento, with our diversity, we’ve always managed somehow to get along ... and a beautiful picture (can) demonstrate to the rest of the world that that this is what community is all about.”

Artwork locations were carefully selected to uplift underserved neighborhoods, according to organizer Sobon. More than 80 permanent artworks sponsored by the festival over the years have been painted in and around Sacramento over railways and forgotten alleyways, as well as stadiums and hotels.

At the event, Steinberg called attention to festival participant Shane Grammer’s contributions to the city of Paradise, where he painted 19 murals to homes devastated by the fire.

“(Grammer) reminds us, as Congresswoman Matsui said, that ... art is healing” he said. “We need art and we need public art to soften the edges of a harsh world.”

Grammer is planning to create another mural for Wide Open Walls on Del Paso Boulevard at Arden Way, in the Old North Sacramento neighborhood. His and other artists’ works are mapped on the festival’s website,

The festival runs through Aug. 18, with a daily schedule of events on the website.

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