Expressive Oakland Mural Tackles Water Conservation Issue

Aaron Permillion, The Pioneer

Cheyann Elmore
Arts & Entertainment Editor

The Oakland “Water Writes” mural engages
passers-by.

It has been exactly a year since the Oakland “Water Writes” mural, which spans over 5,000 square feet, was painted as part of the Estria’s Foundation’s commitment to expand their water wise mission across the globe.

The Oakland mural, located at Broadway and 21st Street in Downtown Oakland, was painted in April last year over a five week time period.

“The Oakland public paint party hosted over 150 volunteer artists, and the unveiling had over 500 people come out to celebrate the completion of the mural,” said Water Writes director Nancy Hernandez. “The project has built relationships that will long outlive the artwork.”

The hard work and dedication of over 200 volunteers from different community organizations, youth groups and individual artists of the Estria Foundation contributed to the mural, which was painted mostly with acrylic brush paint and spray paint.

“I love to see people’s reactions to the mural, and the painting process,” said Hernandez. “I love how people feel like they can stop and talk to you when you are outside painting images on a wall about the significance of water, way more then if you were just standing there and they passed by. It is a tool of community involvement and engagement.”

This mural is one of 10 collaborative public murals and a part of a newly developed mural series titled “Water Writes” sponsored by the foundation.

The Estria Foundation is a non-profit organization aimed at creating social change through artistic expression. The foundation was founded just two years ago by art veteran of 26 years Estria Miyashiro and entrepreneur and Twitter co-founder Jeremy LaTrasse.

According to the website, the mission of the Estria Foundation is to “shift the social consciousness on critical human and environmental issues through education, art projects and community events around the globe.”

“Water Writes” is a mural series developed around water, focusing on connecting communities and educating them to the impact of the local and international water crisis.

“‘Water Writes’ is a project of the Estria Foundation that aims to create 10 collaborative public mural projects dedicated to water in 10 cities across the globe, cities that are currently organizing and engaged in struggles for access to and protection of water,” said Hernandez. “The murals that are created are a visual representation of the relationships between the people of each place and the water that they share. We hope to link the communities together so they can share their own, and each other’s stories.”

Water Writes first began in March last year and so far a total of five murals has been completed. These locations include Los Angeles, Palawan in the Philippines, Oakland, Honolulu and the Gaza Strip in Palestine.

“We have worked with these communities to create large scale art in public, with a message of the importance of water to our lives, the earth, and future generations,” said Hernandez. “The Estria Foundation creates art in public spaces locally and globally with artists, youth, educators and activists in order to raise awareness and inspire action in the movement to resolve human and environmental issues.”

The Oakland “Water Writes” mural is the epitome of artistic genius, with its majestic color scheme, extraordinary details and eloquently flowing water sequences.

“On the left, water emerges from a pipe, as it does in urban settings, and flows across the entire 200 foot long mural,” said Hernandez. “The water is passed on from a grandparent to a child who is learning to care for an aquaplonics set up with fish and vegetables growing from the water.

“The water then runs down to a Northern California native woman who is protecting the Salmon with her hands and breaking down a huge dam with her feet returning the water to the basin. There are sea turtles and octopus struggling with plastics and trash in the water and a woman holding up a bike as an alternative to polluting forms of transportation,” explained Hernandez.

“There is a menacing looking squirrel, sitting high on a throne of plastic water bottles, commanding an army of beavers to dam up the water and privatize it,” she added. “But towering above him are two 40-foot characters, youth from Oakland, who are planting an Oak tree and holding a reusable water container.”

Currently, the “Water Writes” series is working on projects on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona, Mexico City, Vancouver, Canada, Bogotá, Colombia and even along the Klamath River in Northern California.

“I full-heartedly believe in the capacity to change the places around us by changing the way they look, and the way we interact with them,” said Hernandez. “The Estria Foundation aims to expand the power of public art as a form of messaging and a tool to create a more just and sustainable world.”