Oakland’s Empowering Inspirational Super Heroes Mural Project


The four-phase Oakland Super Heroes Mural Project [Vimeo video at bottom of the page] is set to adorn the border of West Oakland, California with seven murals imagined and installed by 105 local youth. The first, already completed, is located along the 580 freeway on San Pablo Avenue between 35th and 36th streets. The murals, funded by Additudinal Healing Connections (AHC), are meant to inspire children to see themselves as super heroes and change agents in their community.

“(The super hero mural project) showed me commitment …and it helped me be more confident in who I am and gave me a chance to voice my opinion and show my leadership skills.  I’ve never had that option to do that,” said local high school student Umuuka Rose.

The AHC has provided not only funding, but after school-programs and leadership training to reach approximately 30,000 children and adults thus far. AHC’s goal is to provide access to the arts for schools that lack the necessary funding to bring healing through creative expression for at-risk communities.

The organization plans to work with over 100 children to put up the murals. The designs originate from the answers to surveys from the communities on what areas need improvement to help their areas flourish. The children are then responsible for bringing the designs to life while being supervised by adults and one professional artist while they work.

The project’s website explains that the impact goals of the project are:

1) Youth empowerment. Murals are a form of art that play a vital role in ideological, economic, social and racial struggle and change. The social nature of the process allows our participating youth to grow, to be valued and to define him- or herself as a member of the larger community.  They also gain self-respect by learning to respect public space, the art-making process, and each other.

2) Reduce blight.  Improve the public environment

3) Reduced crime / Increased security.  Blight indirectly adds to crime in Oakland. It adds to the stress and low morale in neighborhoods, which is a major contributing factor in the cycle of crime.  The murals will address blight and effect community empowerment by brightening up neglected neighborhoods with healing images that incorporate culturally diverse community aspirations and themes.

4) Lift community morale.  Involve viewers in a visual dialogue to raise community consciousness and build pride.

5) Youth engagement.  The murals will be designed and conceptualized by local middle and high school students. This will provide youth the rare opportunity to be critically engaged in a public forum and voice their aspirations as well as buy-in in the betterment of their environment.

6) Youth Training / Local job creation.  Approximately 20 jobs will be created to complete this project; that is, 20 local artists will be contracted and approximately 105 youth will be trained to design and help complete the six murals.

7) Community empowerment.  The project will lift community morale.  It will involve viewers in a visual dialogue to raise community consciousness and build pride.

8) Community enhancement.  Beautification of these neglected streets will reduce blight, increase safety and improve the public environment.  Ultimately, it will help increase property value and commercial opportunity as well as improve the city brand / image.  Already, since the installation of the first mural, dumping and graffiti have nearly stopped on the San Pablo thruway.

While the project is still underway, the timeline of the project is precise and allows followers to see their progress, and their projected milestones to come. The project is expected to be completed by 2016.

Megan Kennedy

Megan Kennedy

A University of Dayton alumni, reporter, nature enthusiast, animal whisperer, avid hiker, mystery novel lover, and whiskey connoisseur.
Megan Kennedy
Megan Kennedy

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