When local artist Augie WK began his latest mural project, he knew he’d have to commit to working full time everyday, but he didn’t quite expect that it would take so long, nor that he would get complaints about his work.
After getting a grant from the Arts Council for supply funding in August, WK thought he’d be able to wrap up the mural by the end of the summer. WK’s girlfriend and fellow artist Jessica Carmen contacted the city of Watsonville to inquire about a permit. After not hearing back from the city, and being told through word of mouth that there were no mural permit laws, they began painting in August. But then the city’s graffiti abatement personnel showed up a month later and, according to WK, said it was too large, too colorful and offensive.
“The person just didn’t like me, and didn’t like what I was doing,” WK explained. “For me, it’s incredulous. I’ve been there since August, I was there on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. Those were the days I had off, so I had to work on it. For the most parts passersby can appreciate art, but not everyone apparently.”
Despite the fact that the mural was on private property, it was on a public throughway. The city billed WK almost $1,000 for a public hearing to approve the mural. After starting a GoFundMe page to foot the bill, the project got the mayor’s support and the city dropped the hearing, settling on a $187 signage fee.
WK’s 62-foot-long Sabor mural is inspired by candy, Latin serape blankets, and a love for big, bold colors. Look closely and Sabor—which means “flavor” in Spanish—is made up of hundreds of lines that WK and his girlfriend hand-painted. Stand further away and the colors meld into one big, colorful image.
“I wanted to be a muralist all my life, and it’s not necessarily as easy as saying ‘Hey, let me turn your wall pretty,’” he says. “People really liked the idea at first, but I felt like they were bureaucratically a little shy. Watsonville is a working town, people are just trying to work and get by, and don’t want to deal with extra headaches. That’s what I felt like I was bringing at times when I was looking for a place for it.”
When he approached one of the partners of Don Rafa’s Supermercado in Watsonville, his work was welcomed. This was WK’s largest project yet, and after receiving the grant he donated his time, working on the weekends to try and get the mural done as soon as possible.
“The mural is my gift to the community,” he says. “The reason the word ‘Sabor’ hangs so high in the air is because I want people to be able to walk around in the rich color that is the three dimensionals of the word. Color is my favorite part about it. It’s mostly basic colors, but they are strategically placed. It’s like a serapre blanket, but it reflects the Mexican culture as a whole.”
Now that it’s complete, WK has been fighting the weather to set a grand opening date. He finally celebrated the unveiling on Jan. 13 and says around 100 people showed up to celebrate and support the mural.
“The community has responded overall really well to it,” he says. “The people who live nearby, they wake up and see it every morning. One lady told me she bought the house before the wall was built and used to have a great view of the skyline, then when the building went up she was really sad. But now she’s really excited to see the mural, and says she’s so happy she bought the house. Kids run by and say ‘mom you didn’t tell me we could paint on the walls outside!’ It’s really cool to see.”
WK says that the most common question he got at the event was, “What’s next?” Although he wants to take some much-needed time off, he’s already exploring his next project.
“I don’t have a plan for another mural, but I’ve had a lot of people approach me about their own projects and doing another mural,” he says. “My girlfriend and I also do screenprintings, so maybe I’ll do some shirts. I’d love to paint a mural the same size as this one. I really loved the response from people, so we’ll see.”