Five Muralists Recap POW! WOW! Long Beach 2017 Festival

POW! WOW! is one of the country’s foremost public art/mural festivals. Since launching in Hawaii seven years ago, it’s found home cities around the country (Washington, D.C.) and the world (Taiwan, China). The event is designed to bring communities together to create amazing public art, joining some of the world’s top artists and muralists with local talent.

The festival, founded by Jasper Wong, has an incredible ability to transform neighborhoods like the Honolulu’s Kaka’ako, where it started all started. Over the years, the neglected, industrial town has blossomed, experiencing a decrease in crime and an increase in new businesses, healthy eateries, and creative workspaces.

The third POW! WOW! to go down in Long Beach, Calif. wrapped up in late July. MASS APPEAL caught up with the festival’s director—as well as several participating muralists—to reflect on how it all went down in Strong Beach this year.

Jasper Wong

Jasper Wong

POW! WOW!’s founder and Lead Director Jasper Wong is an accomplished artist and illustrator with a unique approach to art. His work often combines dozens of elements into a frenetic, collage-like pattern comprised of iconic characters, cacti, clouds, lightning bolts, and other original cartoon-informed creations. The Honolulu native—who has designed for Microsoft, Versace, Nike, and Heineken—spends the majority of the year managing and organizing an impressive series of global events, often executing one festival while planning the next. One of public art’s hardest-working figures, Wong was on hand for three weeks in Long Beach to help ensure POW! WOW! went down without a hitch.

MASS APPEAL: You’ve just completed your third POW! WOW! Long Beach. What were some of this year’s highlights?

Jasper Wong: We added about 20 new murals to the Long Beach landscape this year, which brings the grand total to 56 murals in the city. This year we painted a couple massive ones, such as a seven-story building by Trav, a four-story one by Andrew Schoultz, and a five-story wall by Mina Hamada. We also worked with a solid group of local Long Beach artists, as well as supported the local graffiti community by creating a graffiti-writing contest with Mike Giant.

What is the biggest challenge about pulling off the festival in Long Beach, as opposed to the other mural festivals you direct?

Getting walls is really tough. We were lucky to pick up a lot of great community partners to lock in walls for this year’s festival. A lot of credit goes to [regional directors] Julia [Huang], Dani [Concepcion], and Tokotah [Skye].

Did you paint during POW! WOW! Long Beach 2017?

I wish I could have, but I never have time to paint at POW! WOW!

What’s the next POW! WOW! event you are looking towards?

The next one is in Worcester, Mass. After that, we have projects in Guam, South Korea, Japan, San Jose, and Singapore.

Kevin Lyons

Artist, designer, and illustrator Kevin Lyons painted in Long Beach for the first time this summer, after participating in several POW! WOW! festivals in Hawaii. Being something of a massive fan of Kevin Lyons’ art, I believe seeing his work put up in Los Angeles is a big win for the city’s art game, and one more step towards further developing Long Beach as a growing art destination.

Why did you participate in POW! WOW! Long Beach 2017?

Kevin Lyons: I’ve been doing POW! WOW! Hawaii for the last three years and I always wanted to do a POW! WOW! in one of their other cities. Long Beach interested me because I used to live there like 15 years ago, when I was Design Director at Stussy—so I had ties to the city. Also, last year’s POW! WOW! in Long Beach had been stellar with a lot of amazing murals and artists, so I enjoyed the challenge.

Was there specific inspiration or an idea behind your mural?

My mural has a very specific concept, and it relates directly to the location. Somehow, PWLB found me a wall on the side of a new vegan restaurant called Seabirds. And I’m vegetarian—I often draw food characters. It was the perfect storm. In addition, I wanted to try doing something bigger than my previous POW! WOW! murals. I’d done my signature Monster patterns for all three, so I really wanted to switch it up and increase the scale of my characters. I wanted to experiment with reducing my outline and bringing in more texture. In the end I made a Veggie Gang group shot, using colors pulled from all the greens and blues and grays and coral colors found in the oceanside apartment buildings surrounding the neighborhood. I then asked OG Slick to drive down and tag up the background, adding some sayings from and shouts outs to The LBC.

How was the Strong Beach painting experience overall?

Painting in Long Beach was awesome. The city has changed so much since I was there last. Much younger, cooler, and more creative vibe. The people who came by and visited were so welcoming and thankful. People brought me food and drinks and even T-shirts and other gifts. It was wild. In addition, The PWLB staff recruited some of the best volunteers ever. These young kids were so willing to help and listen and learn, it was fantastic. Lastly, it always a blast to paint with my POW! WOW! family. So much talent and love surrounding these festivals.

Yis “Nosego” Goodwin

Yis “Nosego” Goodwin is a super-talented Philly-based artist who has previously participated in POW! WOW! Hawaii. He’s probably best known for his technically advanced murals and paintings that combine animals, patterns, colors, and other aspects into beautiful collages of original artwork.

Why did you decide to participate in POW! WOW! Long Beach this year?

Nosego: Besides the passion for painting murals, I love the community aspect and family vibe that the POW! WOW! festivals cultivate. So it’s always been a pleasure in the past, and I wanted to share my contribution with the city of Long Beach and connect with its locals.

Dope! Was your mural inspired by anything in particular?

Ultimately the idea of looking beyond yourself and within yourself. The watermelon pattern was inspired by a lady that works in the church across the street, who wears a watermelon pattern outfit on the daily.

How was the LB painting experience for you?

Golden, great people and good vibes!

Noelle Martinez

Three years ago, Noelle Martinez flew herself to Long Beach from Phoenix on her own dime, just to volunteer her time helping her friend Aaron De La Cruz with an incredible floor mural for Pow Wow! She returned in 2016 and was indispensable as one of the event’s star volunteers, helping several other artists execute giant murals within the allotted timeframe. From there, she joined the POW! WOW! crew, attending events worldwide and lending a helping hand. She relocated to Long Beach to further pursue her art career. She was a featured artist for the festival in June and of course, she killed it.

Was your mural at POW! WOW! Long Beach inspired by anything in specific?

Noelle Martinez: My mural was inspired by all the hard work I’ve invested assisting various artists and at Pow! Wow! Events. The fire theme explosion background was inspired by the fire that fuels me. The eyes were supposed to be mine, to show my presence as an artist for this years Pow! Wow! Long Beach.

How was the 2017 LB painting experience overall?

Painting in Long Beach was a great experience and gave me a real feel for how welcoming the community is.

Bodeck Luna Hernandez

Bodeck Luna Hernandez is a Long Beach-based artist with roots in the Philippines. He immigrated to the States when he was 14, and attended some art classes at Long Beach City College. Earlier this year, the artist finished his first-ever large-scale mural, also in Long Beach, as part of the Cambodia Town Mural Project. POW! WOW! Long Beach was his first time participating in the mural festival.

Why did you accept the invite to participate in POW! WOW! Long Beach 2017?

Bodeck Luna Hernandez: You just can’t turn down the opportunity to share your art in a public setting for the community. Initially I wanted to meet other artists and learn new skills and make friends along the way and connect with the city.

What inspired your mural?

There’s an elementary school diagonally across the street, and the wall is directly facing the playground. It was an organic idea to create a piece that specifically catered to the children who would enjoy it during playtime. “Recess” is about playful bliss for children and also a reflection for adults and our reliance on disposable technology. These children aren’t worried about any emails or phones—they’re suspended in pure joy.

How was the overall POW! WOW! Long Beach experience for you?

POW! WOW! far exceeded what I was expecting. I made new friends, learned new techniques, and got to enjoy community. What’s more surprising was the impact of the wall to the audience, which definitely captured POW! WOW!’s aloha spirit. Meeting up with the artists every night for the events feels like you’re a part of a family you haven’t seen in a while. The festival made me fall even deeper in love with my city. It’s endearing to just watch the residents enjoy each other’s community through the event. I’m truly grateful for the experience and I’m looking forward to hopefully being a part of it again.

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