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Muralists Aim To Super-Size Santa Cruz Public Art

After painting KindPeoples, East End Gastropub, Plantronics and more, two local artists have big plans for a wall at Bay and Mission

You know Taylor Reinhold and Scotty Greathouse, even if you’ve never met them. They are at KindPeoples, East End Gastropub and Plantronics; Cafe Gratitude and Annieglass. Greathouse and Reinhold are mural masters, the artists behind some of Santa Cruz’s most recognizable public artwork.

But you’re about to get to know them a little more. The duo has a new, very public project coming up at the intersection of Bay and Mission streets. It’s the largest project they have taken on, and will be Santa Cruz County’s largest public mural at over 600 feet long.

“Sometimes when I drive by I’m like, ‘Oh, it’s not that big,’” Greathouse says. “Other days I drive and see just how much wall there is to cover, and it’s like ‘Whoa, that’s a lot’.”

Reinhold adds: “If you stacked it all up vertically, it would be, like, a six-or seven-story building. It’s one of the hardest walls we have done, because it’s such a high-profile wall.”

The project is set to commence in May, and will center around marine conservation while highlighting pollution in the Monterey Bay. Together, Reinhold and Greathouse run the Fresh Walls Project, an organization that partners with local nonprofits to support education through public art. They have been working together professionally for around four years but have known each other for much longer.

“Scotty got me my first job when I was 15, at a skate shop,” Reinhold says. “He was my idol.”

Since then they have collaborated on more than 10 murals together, but also say their styles couldn’t be more opposite. While Greathouse is much more technical and precise, Reinhold admits he’s all about just getting paint on the wall. But the educational side of their work with the Fresh Walls Project is something new.

“The future goal is to show up to a school with all of the funding and just be like, ‘Let’s paint this wall, what do you want on it?’” Reinhold says. “Right now, school districts are spending millions of dollars to paint schools grey. Why not hire muralists?”

With that goal in mind, the Mission Street mural will center around marine pollution and the damage that single-use plastic causes to our backyard ecosystem. The nonprofit Clean Oceans International helped spearhead the project by hosting an educational program with Cabrillo and UCSC students. They held a workshop for students at Bayview Elementary to talk about Pacific Ocean pollution and how marine life is affected. Some of the quotes from students will be included, and participants also got to choose some of the animals for the final piece.

“The kids are going to see us painting it every day on their way to school, and they will see it all the time once it’s done,” Reinhold says. “When they walk out from school, they will be able to look at it and read the quotes on it and be reminded of what is in our marine sanctuary and why it’s such a beautiful place.”

The project has been in the works for more than two years. The idea came about at Open Studios back in October 2017, when Jim Holm from Clean Oceans International approached Reinhold and asked, “How do we paint that wall?” Since then, they say, it’s been a long road of permitting, fundraising, grant-writing, and planning.

“We are just pushing through. We are willing to do anything to make this happen,” Greathouse says. “We just want to get paint on the wall.”

There are always issues and delays, from permitting to cost coverage, when it comes to public art, but this project had the added uncertainty of confusion over who owned the wall. Despite the fact that it is part of Bay View Elementary, the wall actually belongs to CalTrans because it is on Highway 1, and the permitting process with CalTrans took more than six months.

Greathouse and Reinhold aren’t newbies when it comes to public art permitting, but after getting approval from CalTrans and the city of Santa Cruz , they are crossing their fingers that there are no more last-minute technical bridges to cross before they begin painting.

“We have never had to deal with this many moving parts at the same time before,” Greathouse says.

But Greathouse and Reinhold can’t do it alone—at least not quickly. They are hoping the process will take around six weeks total, if all goes well, so they are recruiting five or six other Bay Area artists to help them out. Some specialize in fine details, while others will help to get paint on the wall more broadly.

“I’m the only one who knows all of the artists pretty well. A lot of them haven’t met each other,” Reinhold says. “It’s like a baseball team. We are giving elements to each artist—someone will do kelp, another will do the 100-foot-long octopus, and someone else will do little crispy details that make the whole thing pop.”

To understand the magnitude of this project, the pair says it’s important to see what’s behind the final product. To get the mural done, they will have to shut down the right lane on Mission Street overnight while they do the initial outline. Plus, since they use a giant paint sprayer, they’ll have to shield cars and trees and sidewalks, and divert pedestrian traffic.

“It’s gonna be an adventure,” says Greathouse with a laugh.

While the pair is used to doing volunteer-based murals, the sheer size of the project means it will cost tens of thousands of dollars. Although community groups—including the city, Save Our Shores and the Arts Council—have pledged money to the project, the total bill will be somewhere between $60,000-90,000. They haven’t raised anywhere near that much, so they are scrambling to fund it through a GoFundMe and auctioning off donation name slots on the final mural.

“We aren’t trying to make a killing on it. It’s a massive project that will take a ton of time. We aren’t clocking in on anything, it’s all been volunteer,” Greathouse says. “This is one of many other projects and responsibilities that we are both juggling. Between hiring other people to join in and the massive amount of paint it requires, it all adds up.”

“We are going to max our credit cards out and hope that we get reimbursed,” Reinhold says.

They are hoping to raise some of the funding through grassroots donations. While some local vendors like Vasili’s Greek Restaurant and Mission Street BBQ have opted to contribute by feeling the artists during the process, other companies have helped financially. They say everything—and any amount—helps.

“We just want to bring new life to the wall. It’s for the community,” Greathouse says.

“This project is hopefully one of many more educational, messaged-based mural projects in the county,” Reinhold says. “We want to put our talents to good use in that way.”

For more information on the mural, or to donate, visit gofundme.com/cleanoceansmural.

UPDATE: 4/10/2019 — This article has been updated to clarify the mural permitting process for the publicly-owned wall at Bay and Mission streets.

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