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Ocean Beach Street Fair mural will help spread Think Blue’s message of clean stormwater and beaches

This underwater scene is the rough draft for a mural by artist Janis Ambrosiani.
This underwater scene is the rough draft for a mural by artist Janis Ambrosiani that community members will complete as part of the Ocean Beach Street Fair & Chili Cookoff on June 25. The 24-foot mural is sponsored by Think Blue San Diego and Rubio’s Coastal Grill.
(Courtesy of Kirk Williams)

Large murals are an integral part of Ocean Beach, as they help beautify the community and instill local pride.

Most of the more than 20 murals scattered across town began as a community project at the Ocean Beach Street Fair & Chili Cookoff.

Artist Janis Ambrosiani, a participant in the Street Fair for 12 years, has two murals in the works for this year’s fair on Saturday, June 25. One will be sponsored by Think Blue San Diego, the education and outreach division of the city’s Stormwater Department for more than 20 years, providing tips and advice to help keep stormwater clean. Think Blue partnered with Rubio’s Coastal Grill on the mural project.

Bethany Bezak, interim director of the San Diego Stormwater Department
Bethany Bezak, interim director of the San Diego Stormwater Department, says, “When people understand and value stormwater issues, something as simple as seeing a mural can remind them to ‘think blue.’”
(Courtesy of Bethany Bezak)

Bethany Bezak, deputy director of the Stormwater Department who becomes interim director June 13, said the department encourages people to learn about stormwater issues while having fun.

“We expect around 50,000 attendees at the Street Fair, and we know the mural will be a permanent installation that people can appreciate,” Bezak said.

Ambrosiani’s murals are incomplete. It’s up to visitors at the Street Fair to see that her drawings become finished murals. Up to 100 people often take paintbrush to canvas to complete her colorful works.

“By the end of the day of the Street Fair, the murals are done, they look fantastic and they have so much character to them,”
Ambrosiani said. “It’s so much fun to watch this happen in front of me. I love it.”

She said the process begins when she draws her designs, which are often 12 or 24 feet long. From there, an equal size of blank masonite boards are placed on easels. The boards are divided into 1-foot squares, corresponding to the size of the finished mural. The squares — lettered and numbered to indicate their place in the mural — are then offered to the public for $20 each.

“People will be lined up at 7 a.m. to buy their square,” Ambrosiani said. “Most people just buy one, but some people buy a couple and sometimes a family will share a square.”

Once a square is purchased, it is placed on a “palette,” which is often a simple plastic foam tray. Based on the drawing, corresponding paint colors matching the specific square chosen are added to the palette and the budding artist is free to paint that section of the mural.

Artist Janis Ambrosiani stands beside a mermaid mural she created in Ocean Beach.
(Courtesy of Kirk Williams)

“I designed the murals, but I don’t paint on Street Fair day; the buyers do it all on their own,” Ambrosiani said. “I give suggestions here and there, but no one has to paint their square to match the mural if they don’t want to. That’s where the character comes in; someone always adds something to the design.”

In a fish mural, for example, people may add more fish. Sometimes painters add family members to the art.

“It only takes about 10 minutes for the paint to dry, and with a 24-foot-long mural, 50 people could all be painting at the same time,” she said.

The final locations of Ambrosiani’s two murals have yet to be determined, but they are expected to be installed the week of July 11.

To go along with the Think Blue theme of clean stormwater and beaches, one of the murals will feature an underwater scene.

“It has dolphins, coral, sea turtles, fish and bubbles,” Ambrosiani said. “It’s 24 feet long by 6 feet high.”

This unfinished Sunset Cliffs scene is a drawing by artist Janis Ambrosiani for a 12-by-12-foot mural.
This unfinished Sunset Cliffs scene is a drawing by artist Janis Ambrosiani for a 12-by-12-foot mural as a community project at the Ocean Beach Street Fair.
(Courtesy of Kirk Williams)

Her other mural is a 12-by-12-foot square and features Sunset Cliffs. It likely will be placed near there.

The Ocean Beach MainStreet Association pays for the OB murals’ installation and upkeep. Self-guided walking tour information can be found at oceanbeachsandiego.com/attractions/murals-ob.

“When people understand and value stormwater issues, something as simple as seeing a mural can remind them to ‘think blue’ and get engaged,” Bezak said.

Think Blue will have a booth at the Street Fair near other booths also focused on environmental issues.

For more information about Think Blue San Diego, visit sandiego.gov/think-blue.


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