The church bells tolled as our session at the lumberyard started this afternoon, signaling a beginning. The hiss of propelled pigments and the odor of paint swirled around us, as Flying Lotus played on the speakers. Erik Gonzalez, the leader of the Urbanists Collective, was getting into his flow, painting the outline of our San Joaquin Kit Fox in B-Boy style on the wood plank walls of the lumberyard. This isn’t graffiti, this is contemporary art. The kind that exists only for days at a time, as this wall is an ever changing canvas of layered art upon art. The art beneath becomes part of the art above, and around it.
An Artistic Evolution
In the same way Erik’s artistic journey is like the wall he’s painting on; multi-layered, vibrant and obscured. Growing up in the Bay Area in the late 80’s when graffiti art was flourishing in urban centers, he started to develop his craft in the street; moving around California, tagging, making street art or graffiti.
These days, however, Erik is busy working on community art projects around Tulare County, receiving grants from foundations, and advising the City of Visalia on it’s mural policy. The Lumberyard on N. Garden & E. Oak St. in Visalia, has found a second life as the Urbanists art studio with help from the city and the Arts consortium.
“I feel blessed to be given this opportunity”, says Erik regarding his work with the Urbanists Collective. “The Visalia Arts Consortium is our fiscal sponsor, and they really helped us raise money”.
Paint Costs Money
Plainly put – paint costs money. Through fundraising and grants, the Urbanists Collective with the Arts Consortium have supported local street artists and fostered engagement by producing events like Taste of the Arts, First Fridays, and premier art openings. This last season’s events at the Lumberyard have included live painting, MC’s, DJ’s and B-boys, spoken word, open mic, suped up cars, and hip hop swag.
The Urbanists’ members, are also working commercial artists, teachers, tattoo artists, photographers, printers, and musicians. They are very much a part of the community, bringing hip-hop street cred to the Central Valley’s growing arts scene.
Given street art’s beginning in graffiti, a subversive, criminal affair; I was beginning to worry that Erik’s street cred is somehow diminished. His community work, commissioned pieces and you know – legit work, must come at an artistic price. He reminds me, “…there are multiple audiences for my work, this isn’t my only art , let’s just say that.”
The Urbanists’ final Lumberyard Session of the year is First Friday September 5, 6PM-10PM. Featuring a Street Car Meet with Beyond Mention (a car drift team), and RC drift car demo by Exeter Hobbies.
Thank you to Frank Miramontes with 727 Photography for producing and filming this time lapse.