Artists Are Painting Murals On Shuttered Storefronts To Inspire Their Communities

“We wanted to bring hope into the community and inspire people.”

It seems as if we hear one depressing pandemic update after another, but there is a silver lining to that dark cloud. In the San Francisco Bay Area, artists are going out to paint murals on the shuttered storefronts of the empty streets, bars, and restaurants.

Plywood planks are what is typically seen as the storefronts are boarded up, but now those planks are turned into a canvas for artists in the Bay Area. There is even a new initiative, known as Paint the Void, that is trying to pair the artists with shuttered businesses that could use a little brightening up.

One artist in the Hayes Valley area of San Francisco has covered a boarded-up storefront with bright painted flowers. It would have been a rather drab entryway but he made bright and cheerful.

View this post on Instagram

Flowers taking back the streets 🌻 @maxehrman sharing his craft @chezmamansf giving back to the Hayes Valley Community 🌺 one wall done many more to go #paintthevoid #building180 #buildthingswithyour🙌 #supportsmallbusiness #supportlocalartists 🙏🏽❤️ @building180 @art_for_civil_discourse #paintthevoid #paintthevoidproject #streetart #streetarteverywhere #supportsmallbusiness #supportlocal #covid_19 #sanfranciscostreetart #building180

A post shared by Paint The Void (@paintthevoidproject) on

The first post by Paint the Void was captioned: “Rather than allowing the plywood to highlight fear and uncertainty we want to decorate our streets with art to reflect an optimistic perspective. Art helps us contextualize our life experience.”

View this post on Instagram

Help us Paint the Void! We're launching a new fundraising initiative in partnership with Public Arts Organizations, @building180 and @art_for_civil_discourse called #paintthevoid in response to the pandemic that continues to hit our communities. We've all noticed storefronts boarded up around San Francisco and East Bay. Rather than allowing plywood to highlight fear and uncertainty we want to decorate our streets with art to reflect an optimistic perspective. Art helps us contextualize our life experience. We are collaborating with artists to design uplifting artwork to donate to boarded up businesses in San Francisco and the East Bay and we need your help – we are fundraising donations to pay artists for thier time and materials. Stay tuned for our launch today. Mural by @clengsumagaysay.art in collaboration with @mariacarmelaart 📸 travis woodward @ Wild Feather on Haight St 🙏🏽❤️ @building180 @art_for_civil_discourse #paintthevoid #paintthevoidproject #streetart #streetarteverywhere #supportsmallbusiness #supportlocal #covid_19 #sanfranciscostreetart #building180

A post shared by Paint The Void (@paintthevoidproject) on

“We thought that beautifying the streets with murals would be a good place for people who are still working the frontlines and getting out there every day,” Meredith Winner, organizer of Paint the Void, told Real Simple. “We wanted to bring hope into the community and inspire people.”

Another example is what we see outside of the Dogpatch Saloon. Imagine seeing this every day when you were walking the block to get some exercise. The mural was posted to Instagram, and it shows Pres. Franklin D Roosevelt next to a variation of his quote: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

View this post on Instagram

“the only thing to fear, is fear itself.” FDR 🎨 by @samagram12 and @tigerbuder for @dogpatchsaloon feeling the love ❤️ 🙏🏽❤️ @building180 @art_for_civil_discourse #paintthevoid #paintthevoidproject #streetart #streetarteverywhere #supportsmallbusiness #supportlocal #covid_19 #sanfranciscostreetart #building180

A post shared by Paint The Void (@paintthevoidproject) on

Along with beautifying the city, Paint the Void is also raising money to help artists who are suffering financially because of the pandemic.

This is happening places outside of San Francisco as well. In Seattle, storefronts are getting a beautiful makeover with murals showing up on coffee shops, pizzerias, pubs, and other businesses.

Kate Blackstock and Frida Clements are local artists who painted a natural scene over the boards covering up Tractor Tavern, a music venue in Seattle. Slate reports that the venue’s owner asked Blackstone to do the artwork and she agreed.

“It was so jarring and heartbreaking to see all these businesses boarded up,” Blackstone told Slate. “I was excited to be able to put some love on one of the places where I feel most at home.”

View this post on Instagram

🌼 #forgetmenot #ballard #tractortavern #fthiss

A post shared by kate blackstock (@kateblackstock) on

Glynn Rosenberg is another artist in Seattle that has painted a number of storefronts with beautiful flowers and inspiring messages, such as “until next time” and “see you soon.” She told Slate about the importance of street art now that so many people are living in isolation.

“Bringing artists to the street increases access to art,” she explained to Slate. “The pandemic has made existing inequity more extreme, so it is really important to serve the community in whatever capacity we are capable.”

View this post on Instagram

Love note to Capitol Hill. . . . . . Thanks so much to Downtown House Cleaning for asking for flowers. It was such a pleasure to bring this to your community. . . . . #capitolhillseattle #seattlemurals #seattleart #femalestreetartist #streetart #seattlestreetart #murals #ladieswhopaint #spraypaint #wallart #covidmurals #aerosolart #artist #seattle #seattlestrong

A post shared by Glynn Rosenberg (@glynnrosenberg) on

Businesses on Seattle’s Capitol Hill, including Capital Coffee Works, is now home to a unique and beautiful piece of art.

View this post on Instagram

Mural by #SANDY on #CapitolHill

A post shared by Antonio Varchetta (@curatingcommunity_206) on

Pony Wave created a mural on Venice Beach with spray paint, reminding residents to “stay safe.”

View this post on Instagram

Stay safe!😷 . I did that Mural days ago. Now I’m staying home as everyone! . We all are going through this together. There is a reason which we will see after all. It’s time to look at ourselves. Take a look at what are we doing with the planet and our lifetime. Mb we should change our priorities? Mb we should slowdown? Mb we should take a look around and start respect our planet and all those with whom we share it? Mb someone is trying to hide some changes? Or economic collapse? Mb one more step to a new world order? . There is definitely a reason. And not just one. . P.s. please stay inside! I promise to come back to Venice when it will be over and paint. So let’s meet there when everything will be fine. But for now please stay inside! . Stay safe ! Sending you love ! . Thanks to @max__kote for 📸 from a distance 🙌🏻 . . . #venice #venicebeach #corona #covid_19 #stayhome #staysafe #streetart #italy #usa #china #russia #spain #germany #iran #france #switzerland #southkorea #UK #netherlands #austria #belgium #norway #canada #portugal #sweden #australia #brazil #israel #japan #turkey

A post shared by Pony Wave (@ponywave) on

Another area of Los Angeles has a painting of soldiers fighting the pandemic armed with toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and cleaning supplies.

The mural by Hijack Art was photographed and posted to the artist’s Instagram page, captioned: “As humans, we like to think we are in charge of our own corner of the universe. But every now and then a microscopic entity reminds us that we are not.”

View this post on Instagram

As humans, we like to think we are in charge of our own corner of the universe. But every now and then a microscopic entity reminds us that we are not. @neildegrassetyson

A post shared by HIJACK (@hijackart) on

Austin Zucchini-Fowler is a street artist in Denver who created the “wall of gratitude” in honor of hospitality heroes.

You can see the picture on his Instagram page with the words: “It’s gonna all be okay.”

View this post on Instagram

Third wall of gratitude complete. Thank you to our hospitality heroes(chefs and frontline servers) out there and I have several shoutouts. • Thank you Marla @bigsbysfolly who has given away over 3,000 pint glasses to health care workers. 😮 Making them feel so loved. 🤗 • Thank you Andrea @afrizzi for allowing me to use you as my muse for this piece and for your creativity and words of encouragement. It’s all going to be ok! 💚🤍❤️ • Thank you @frontlinefoodsden for supporting local restaurants and feeding thousands of healthcare heroes. • Thank you Robin @_dreadgod_ for the incredible lettering and opportunity to collaborate with you. 🤛🏼 #streetart #publicwork #painting #mural #pointillism

A post shared by Austin Zucchini-Fowler (@austinzart) on

Germany’s capital city, Berlin, is also home to some street art inspired by the pandemic. A mural by Eme Freethinker shows Gollum from “The Lord of the Rings” looking at a roll of toilet paper.

View this post on Instagram

Gollum is back to the @mauerpark but this time he meets a guy more greedy than him, Scrat the squirrel. This one is just to put a smile in this hard times #Berlingraffiti #Berlinstreetart #CaribbeanVandal #Dominicangraffiti #Spraypaint #toiletpapercrisis #graffitisapiens #globalstreetart #elgraffiti

A post shared by Eme Freethinker (@eme_freethinker) on

Street art has been showing up in many areas around the world to thank medical professionals and those who are on the frontlines fighting COVID-19.

That includes this wall in Melbourne, Australia:

View this post on Instagram

FRONTLINE HEROES we @melbournesmurals would like to say a massive THANK YOU to all medics who are out there fighting the fight. Please share this mural to all your frontline working friends to say thank you #covid_19 #blackrock #mural #streetart #heroes #thankyou #doctors #nurses #angel #fighting #world #crisis #graffiti #handpainted #mural #worldstreetart #isolation #stayhome #saveslives #urbanart #world #medical #protectyourself #australia #melbourne #victoria 606 Balcombe Rd Blackrock

A post shared by Melbournes Murals (@melbournesmurals) on

David Speed is a street artist professional in London who produced a mural of a medical worker wearing a face mask. He wanted to express his appreciation for the people working for the National Health Service.

Rachel List is another artist in England who expresses her gratitude for NHS workers through her mural paintings.

This mural posted to Instagram shows a masked medical worker with an angel and rainbow wings.

View this post on Instagram

#nhs #nhsmural #art #PPE #art #artist #yorkshiremuralartist #wings #rainbow #love #thankyounhs #quaranteam_streetart

A post shared by Rachel West /list (@rachthepachel) on

It’s always nice when we see people coming together to fight a difficult situation, and this is one of the most difficult we’ve seen in decades.