The best murals in the East Bay come from the heart of the locals and immortalize American experiences from nature and films to rodeo, free speech and music. The best part is probably how the most drab and mundane surfaces become places of joy and beauty, welcoming and honoring all who encounter the vision even when the murals seem to be hidden treasures. See what an old firehouse, a freeway underpass, a BART station road and even utility boxes and library drop boxes have become in the hands of talented community members like yourself.
www.berkeleymurals.orgBerkeley murals number close to a hundred and range from political to childlike and whimsical. Honoring everything from Cal Sailing Club at the marina to free speech, ethnic musicians, political activism, power to the people and People’s Park, these often psychedelic expressions pay tribute to Berkeley’s diversity and a heritage of peace and freedom.
Hayward Public Art Mural Program
777 B St.
Hayward, CA 94541
Hayward murals by many Hayward residents depict the colorful heritage and give beautiful faces to what would otherwise be drab government buildings. The Harder Road underpass becomes inviting, as a bright and warm juncture with a beautiful quilt of American southwest patterns and colors. Cinema Place parking structure becomes part of the movie theater, nostalgic and romantic with larger-than-life stars and night lights. Even utility boxes, main library drop boxes and a retaining wall under BART becomes a canvas and a place for local talent to shine.
Old Firehouse Mural
The old firehouse mural is for you if you like local heritage and antique vehicles, as the old firehouse in Livermore comes alive with the vibrant mural full of shiny red and brass in “The Firefighters’ Parade”..= Get fired up by the red and brass steam-powered firetruck pulled by a team of horses which shows a real-life contemporary firefighter. Rick Lamb retired after 35 years. Current fireman Jared Jamison pulls a hose cart along with Randy Jennings and Lynn Owens. See the 1919 Model T chemical truck, a 1920 Seagrave firetruck and a 1944 Mack fire engine, which have appeared in Livermore’s Rodeo Parade.
Related: Weirdest museums in the East Bay
Strizzi’s Pleasanton County Fair Mural
Corner of Main and St. Mary St.
The Pleasant County Fair mural shows the fairgrounds and original, historic buildings. Most Bay Area residents grew up with the Pleasanton County Fair and it’s etched in childhood memories and as living history. The mural also shows another old structure that has a rural setting as well at the dairy currently known as the Meadowlark Dairy. See Castlewood and the little Bernal Bridge.
Strizzi’s Wine Country Mural
First and J Streets
Downtown Livermore, CA
Strizzi’s Livermore displays a tile mosaic dedicated to Livermore as wine country since the mid 1800s. Enjoy a bucolic bike ride over winding foothills. Relax and taste the wines at Wente and others.
Meadowlark Dairy Mural
57 West Neal St.
The Meadowlark Dairy mural depicts the black and white cows grazing in green pastures. The dairy operates a popular drive-through.
Charlie Chaplin Mural
Exterior wall of building at Niles and I Streets
Charlie Chaplin, the silent movie hobo clown, sits on a park bench with his chin on his walking stick while pink flamingos preen on the grass behind him. This pretty mural looks pastoral in pastels. Philip Vose, a Fremont student, painted it in the Niles District for a festival. He went on to study animation in southern California. Fremont honors its silent movie history of 100 years ago with an annual film festival on the same streets where Chaplin, the British-born silent film star, walked. Year round, check out Fremont’s silent film museum or ride the train through the same canyons in which Chaplin filmed his slapstick comedies.
Porter’s Market Mission Life Mural
The Manor Shopping Center
15056 Farnsworth St.
San Leandro, CA 94579
An image of California mission life with Indians farming stretches across an entire wall in the interior of historic Porter’s Market in the little Manor neighborhood of San Leandro. The store closed in May after almost a hundred years in business, but the mural remains inside the locked doors. Locals who grew up with this mural and Porter’s suggest the building owners and new tenants must preserve this California history and declare the spot an historic site. Porter’s opened after World War II and was just as much a part of the Manor as the roller-skating rink or the drive-in movies. San Leandro also enlivened the bridge over San Leandro Creek in Root Park with the mural “Nature’s Hidden Treasure.” A muralist worked with over 100 volunteers and high school students and Congressman Pete Stark officially noted the completion of these images of America. You can watch the California mission life mural video here.
Cindy Warner is a freelance writer and a San Francisco Bay Area native. Cindy has covered SF theater and opera for Examiner.com via her bicycle since January 2009. Check out her work on Examiner.com.