I’ll begin 2021 with a confession: It took a pandemic for me to discover most of the three dozen murals that adorn an equal number of buildings in Oceanside. These varied artworks have transformed bland expanses of stucco into explosive, colorful canvases.
As an amateur critic, my knowledge of artists, style and backstories is limited, and it was difficult to find more than a smattering of information on the murals.
Perhaps the combination of holidays and pandemic hampered my search, but I can say that I Iove some, dislike others, and find the remaining ones mystical and/or happily incomprehensible.
It’s also true that these oversized works of art provoke emotion and conversation, add a layer of interest to the city’s neighborhoods, and mercifully transport viewers to a place where we can contemplate something other than the tragedies of 2020 and the challenges of 2021.
I was somewhat familiar with a few of the murals in downtown Oceanside, but it is this mural map (https://visitoceanside.org/blog/oceanside-california-murals/) on the Visit Oceanside/California Welcome Center site that helped us locate the rest.
Armed with this, our group of four took a late-morning walk to view the paintings within two of the three clusters located roughly on either side of South Coast Highway. They stretch from just south of Neptune Way to just south of Vista Way. The three clusters are:
- In the blocks contained by North Ditmar, Mission, South Cleveland and Pier View Way.
- Along Wisconsin Avenue between South Myers St. and South Coast Highway.
- Along South Coast Highway from Cassidy Street to Vista Way.
There are approximately 36 artworks. I say approximately because the number is changing all the time, thanks to MainStreet Oceanside. The organization has funded three of the most recently completed murals, and a fourth – a mosaic with six panels – is nearing completion.
And in case you feel unschooled or intimidated by art – of any kind – don’t be. The murals are there to bring joy and, although I’m sure no one thought about this at the time of their creation, to bring about the human connection that we so lack during this time of social distancing and isolation.
Walking the streets of Oceanside in search of artistic treasure also fills the COVID bill in other ways: It brings us into the open air, it’s a socially-distancing activity, and the exercise benefits our mental and physical health.
There are bonuses along the way, too, like the shops of Artist Alley and the marvelous “living wall” of succulents at the Mission Avenue end. Any trip to downtown Oceanside also must include a walk on the pier, which provides a whole different perspective of the shoreline.
So, get out there, don’t forget your mask and happy new year.