Local mural sparks controversy

In a code of strange and cryptic characters, a gargantuan mural that mysteriously appeared at 825 Berkeley Street. on Thursday, September 8, stated in encryption: “Oceans @ Risk. Heal the Bay. Sea Shepherd. Mad Society. Restore and Protect the World's Oceans.” The mural is the brainchild of local developer and long time Heal the Bay volunteer Adam Corlin. After purchasing the Berkeley St. home for development and finding out that construction couldn’t start for a few months, Corlin came up with a simple way to make use of the empty house.

“I had this idea of doing some kind of art project to help the ocean,” said Corlin.

Corlin got right to work. He acquired 150 white panels and installed them on scaffolding.

Then, inspired by the recent “Art in the Streets” exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art, he contacted Kelly Graval, an artist who goes by moniker RISK, to help him out.

“I’m not an artist,” said Corlin. “So I basically just handed RISK 150 white 4 ft x 4 ft panels, and said ‘Have at it, Kelly, what do you want to do?’”

Graval had an idea. “I basically picked 3 color pallettes” wrote Graval in an email to The Corsair. “One of magentas, oranges, and yellows for the sunset, one being black and purple for pollution, and the last blues, aquas, and greens for the water.”

Graval also contacted another street artist friend of his, Marquis Lewis (also known as Retna).

Lewis contributed the unique lettering, a code of his own design basing it on a combination of Asian calligraphy, Incan and Egyptian hieroglyphics, Hebrew and Arabic script, and the Old English style of gang tagging.

“The objective was to increase awareness to the cause by provoking interest,” wrote Graval. “Retna’s lettering is perfect because it provokes thought and with some research you can read the message.”

After a summer’s worth of work, the mural was revealed.

However, Corlin failed to do one thing - acquire a permit.

“They used scaffolding, which in the eyes of Building and Safety means it’s a multi-story structure,” said Chris Lee of the Building and Safety Division. “We issued a notice of order, which basically means ‘take it down.’”

The notice urged him to remove it immediately or risk fines of up to $25,000, calling it, as Corlin recalls, “an unsafe addition and a public nuisance.”

Corlin, however, did not intend to remove it just yet.

Part of the project’s original intent was to raise awareness for the 27th annual California Coastal Cleanup Day, which took place on September 17.

“My plan was always to keep it up through Coastal Cleanup day, and to take it down as of coastal cleanup day,” said Corlin.

The community seems to have offered an enormous amount of support to this decision.

Multiple citizens hung signs on site in support of the art staying up, and Karen Hall, executive director of Heal the Bay, says many people claimed to have called the city council in protest.

Whether or not it’s due to the community’s support, Hall, seems to think the city's aggresion on the matter seems to have waned.

“Let’s just say the intensity has sort of died off, so he’s taking it down on the day the he was supposed to,” said Hall.

“Overall there were really only a very small few of the ‘higher ups’ that opposed the mural, and it was purely because of personal vendettas,” wrote Graval. “It was eventually exposed which was a huge victory for Street Art!”

On the whole, the people involved with the project seem to see the outcome of the controversy as positive.

“Hopefully in the end the most important thing is that we are bringing awareness to our cause,” said Corlin.

Hall agreed. “I think it did what it was supposed to do, which was to get people talking.”