When you think of the artwork at your local bank, what comes to mind?
Chances are, nothing memorable. Unless, of course, you happen to bank at San Mateo Credit Union in Redwood City. Their new branch features a colorful fifty-foot mural of the downtown areas of Redwood City, and its residents enjoying live music on the square. The mural is not particularly “bankerly”. It is painted in a loose style, where everyone is having fun and no one is wearing a suit. But San Mateo Credit Union is not a bank, and the mural is the first hint to everyone who enters the branch that there is a substantial difference between the two.
Commissioning this mural in the center of their new branch was a bold move. For SMCU, the mural underscores their commitment to the local community they serve. The SMCU tagline is “Where people are more important than money”. With the mural, they now have artwork that reinforces their mission; it is a visual expression of what the credit union is about.
My friend Maud put together this beautiful video about our collaboration:
In our initial conversations I found out that one of the many ways the credit union supports a thriving community is by sponsoring the annual blues festival on the square. I used that event as a starting point for developing the content of the mural.
When I am developing content for my landscape murals, my research might involve something like a quiet morning hike. The research for this project was completely different, and I enjoyed adopting an anthropologists curiosity to bring to life this urban scene. Redwood City is a thriving center for all sorts of art, including live performances at Dragon Theater and live music at the Fox Theater. When things get really big, they just take the party out to the main square, for events like the blues festival, the salsa festival and Octoberfest. I went to the last two events, but for me the salsa festival was something truly extraordinary. The energy, musicianship, and level of fun was outrageous. I have made it my mission to get my salsa dancing moves together for next year’s festival. You can hold me to it!
The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. I was still painting the first few days after the branch opened, and was tickled by the exclamations of surprise and delight of the people who walked through the door. I heard “Que buen idea!” and “Look sweetie, that girl is you!” The most gratifying type of comment was when people could see themselves in the artwork. One guy pointed to a dancer and said, “I think that’s me in the mural!” I said, “Were you at the salsa festival two weeks ago?” “Yes.” “Then it probably is you.” The artwork is loose, not detailed portraiture. But it is unmistakably Redwood City, and celebrates the diversity, beauty and vibrancy of the community to everyone who walks by the artwork.
Stop by and check it out in person sometime! Maybe you will find yourself in the mural….