The ugliest buildings make the nicest canvasses.
That’s the opinion of muralist Morgan Bricca, who recently painted a large mural depicting a street scene in China on the back wall of Crouching Tiger restaurant in downtown Redwood City.
It’s the first of many more murals that should hopefully pop up in the Commercial Way alley parallel to Broadway, said Jason Newblanc with the Redwood City Cultural Commission.
The commission is working with the Peninsula Arts Council and city officials to reinforce the city’s role as a vibrant mecca for art and culture.
The vision is to have each building on Commercial Way painted with murals. It took about five years, however, to get the first business owner to agree to having a mural painted on their building, Newblanc said.
“No one wanted to take the risk,” he said.
Crouching Tiger’s owner Tonia Yeh was the first to take the plunge and now that other business owners nearby have seen how nice it turned out, they too are lining up to have their buildings painted, Newblanc said.
The Crouching Tiger mural is part of a broader effort to beautify downtown with art.
“It’s exciting to see this forgotten, yet highly visible building facade get new life. It is often this type of creativity that make downtown visitors and residents smile and really enjoy being in the area,” said Community Development Director Aaron Aknin.
The new mural became part of Redwood City’s Lunar New Year celebration last week when lion dancers marched from the downtown museum to the back of the restaurant.
It was an exciting day for Yeh, who loves Bricca’s work.
The mural, painted in the trompe l’oeil style, depicts a dramatic doorway, street scene that includes Chinese lanterns, street vendors and a view of a mountainous landscape in the background. Trompe l’oeil means “trick of the eye” and offers the viewer the illusion that they could seamlessly walk into the mural.
Bricca even painted the restaurant’s chef into the mural, sitting on the steps in the foreground of the street scene.
Yeh sees all kinds of symbolism in the mural related to the food served inside the restaurant. It depicts the good food and authentic dishes inside that are made with skillful hands, she said.
The mountains in the background also bring a sense of peace to the building, Yeh said.
It took Bricca a little less than three weeks to complete the mural. She has painted about 50 murals on commercial buildings from Mountain View to San Francisco.
Bricca’s dream is to cover all the buildings in the alley with art.
“We wanted to do one first and then get the buy-in from others,” she said.
She also painted the utility box in front of the Dragon Theater down the street.
“We want to take an eyesore and transform it into something meaningful,” she said.
Mayor Jeffrey Gee said the art fits in with the council’s vision for downtown as an entertainment, arts and cultural hub.
There’s an artists’ movement growing in downtown, Gee said.
“It’s a great addition to downtown,” Gee said about Bricca’s Crouching Tiger mural.
Bricca loves to paint on a big scale. She says a well-placed, well-executed mural can dramatically transform a space and turns a plain wall into something beautiful and unique that tells a story abut the people who dwell there.
Bricca’s art points to signs that public art is looking good for Redwood City’s future.
“We could not be more pleased with Morgan’s work. It’s fantastic,” said Lane Pianta, with the Civic Cultural Commission.
The restaurant is located at 2644 Broadway in Redwood City. To learn more about Bricca’s work go to www.morganmurals.com.