ENCINITAS — Nearly nine months after a commercial building fire wrought devastation in Leucadia, a group of artists hopes artwork will bring some positive vibes back to the community.
Local artists Jessica Fuller, Michael Amorillo, John Hester, Josh Rehkopf, Christian Slocum and Karissa Bordin all contributed murals to beautify a concrete partition separating La Especial Norte restaurant and a small tract of land on the corner of North Coast Highway 101 and Daphne Street.
The empty plot was the location of several well-known Leucadia businesses, including Mozy Cafe, Shatto & Sons T-Shirts, Cali Life Art Gallery and Peace Pies, before they were destroyed in a two-alarm fire last September.
Jim Shatto, owner of both Shatto & Sons and the vacant lot, said the mural project is a positive story “in a sea of negativity,” referring to the constant stream of troubling news related to the coronavirus pandemic.
“This is a work of love and it’s awesome what they are doing,” Shatto said. “These are talented people. This is about these guys who volunteered to do this project for free — just for the community.”
And since Shatto plans to rebuild his storefront in the same location, the mural will only be visible for a limited time.
The idea for the mural project was brought to Shatto from a longtime family friend and Leucadia resident hoping to share a message of hope with the neighborhood.
Devin Seguin, a bartender at Captain Keno’s restaurant, said he was inspired to share a message of hope for locals stuck in social isolation after weeks of mandatory stay-at-home orders.
“I would drive by here on my way to work and I saw this blank wall and thought it was the perfect place for some kind of inspirational message,” Seguin said.
Originally, Seguin wanted to paint a positive affirmation, such as “We’re all in this together,” across the length of the entire wall. Feeling a sense of loss from the fire’s destruction, combined with long periods of isolation due to the coronavirus pandemic has been difficult, Seguin said.
After sharing his thoughts with the property owner, Shatto, the idea was formulated to create a series of murals by local artists. Shatto then posted a notice on Nextdoor, an online neighborhood bulletin, seeking local artists interested in volunteering for a mural project.
Seguin said the community’s response was immediate and overwhelming.
“It’s a reminder that Leucadia is full of artists and creative people, and this is the perfect thing to represent that,” Seguin said.
Seguin’s wife, Karissa Bordin, a professional artist and owner of Paint and Party, along with assistance from her identical twin sister, Kayt Bordin, also contributed to the mural project with a portrait of Grandview, a popular surfing spot in Leucadia.
Michael Amorillo, a graffiti artist and Leucadia resident of 20 years, used spray paint to create a giant whale swimming above kelp fronds.
Originally from New York City, Amorillo has artwork featured across San Diego County, including ocean-themed murals at Leucadia’s Priority Public House gastropub and Harrah’s Rincon in Valley Center.
Other artists contributions to the mural project are as follows: Jessica Fuller painted large-leafed philodendrons, a plant which can be seen growing around Encinitas; John Hester, a local legend known for his iconic Stonesteps Surfing Contest posters and T-shirts, painted the word “Soul” with sunbeams over breaking ocean waves; Josh Rehkopf painted a seashell within a diagram of the golden ratio above the Pacific Ocean; and Christian Slocum painted a surfer riding a wave in beautiful shades of green.
The art wall is located in an empty lot on the corner of North Coast Highway 101 and Daphne Street in Leucadia. The lot is the former location of Mozy’s and Shatto & Sons.