City of Oakland and Mural Artists Clash Over Tourism Campaign

By Susie Steimle

OAKLAND (KPIX 5) – The city of Oakland has a sweet deal: $25,000 for artists to help promote tourism in the city.

With that much cash sitting on the table, some artists are taking a pass.

Along the side wall of Aswad Hayes’ t-shirt company is a mural dedicated to every person who lost their lives in Oakland in 2013.

Oakland business owner Aswad Hayes said, “This is my way of giving back so people living in Oakland can come to a place to commemorate their lost loved ones.”

There are 112 names there and Hayes says people come by to pay their respects, as if it were a cemetery.

Back in May, the city’s tourism bureau Visit Oakland launched a grant program asking local artists to create murals.

But the mural outside Haye’s business would not have been accepted.

Frances Wong with Visit Oakland said the city wants “messaging that’s really positive.”

So while $25,000 is up for grabs to any artist who wants to apply, Wong says they want tourists to be able to experience the work of talented local artists, but they want to make sure the message is a positive one.

Wong said, “We want visitors to come here, spend money at restaurants, visit our attractions.”

Which is why Desi Mundo, the artist who helped design Silence The Violence, outside Hayes’ business, won’t apply.

Mundo said, “Putting up something that doesn’t engage the community even if it’s a blank wall is actually erasing the history because you’re telling a new story that doesn’t include them.”

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