Blue the Great 2021 — Ocean and Pine Ave.
After a year plus filled with cancellations and postponements, Long Beach welcomed back one of its most beloved community events: POW! WOW! Long Beach. The colorful transformation of these walls were sights for sore eyes as many walls were murals from the past that were vandalized beyond repair. This year came with a sister event, Long Beach’s first-ever sculpture festival, Art Renzei. POW! WOW! artists brought new life to city walls while Art Renzei artists adorned the southern California coastline with unique sculptures and multimedia artworks. Together POW! WOW! Long Beach and Art Renzei 2021 helped re-energize the community with a week-long celebration of art installations and programming events.
To start, let’s actually take a step back to September. Blue the Great and his chilled-out, sneakerhead mummy had a great view for all the week’s festivities from the Long Beach Shoreline Marina. His mummy wall helped usher in the POW! WOW! Long Beach festival by acting as an early announcement of PW coming back to Long Beach. After the one-year hiatus, his wall was a beacon of hope to the community. Blue came back to restore his old wall directly manifesting the festival’s theme of healing the community through public art.
The festival week was kicked off at Made/Elenor with PW artist-designed, limited-edition bandanas.James Jean x Koenigsegg Agera RS “Ruthie” in ‘Pomegranate’
The big guns came out on the first day with a Koenigsegg Agera RS wrapped in James Jean’s ‘Pomegranate’ Artwork. It was a great way to simultaneously introduce both a mural & sculpture festival by showcasing something in-between both.Virtual: Eugene Kan and Jeff Staple; On stage: James Jean and Emily Yang
Later that week James Jean was joined by pplpleasr (aka Emily Yang) for an artist-centered talk based on the novel NFT movement. Live from the cutting edge, James Jean and pplpleasr were joined remotely by Eugene Kan and the mystical human himself, Jeff Staple. Clarity and insight were provided by the intimate conversation. We can’t all claim to fully understand this new domain, but perspicacious information was shared with all in attendance.
Wan-Jen Chen multimedia installation at Long Beach City Hall
The entire city of Long Beach felt the glowing presence of both festivals. From City Hall (Wan-Jen Chen) to North Long Beach to the shoreline — the city came alive with multimedia artwork and engagement. Metaphorically and physically leading the way, Nat Iosbaker and Shak Smart canvassed the city with hundreds of cyclists on an artist-led bike tour. They viewed Andrea James’ work at the Breakfast Bar: a painted mural of a stained-glass-looking butterfly, dedicated to her art teacher who was heavily influential in her formative years and someone she still stays in touch with to this day.
Image clockwise: 1) Nat Iosbaker and Noelle Martinez (aka Busybirdy) mural collab on 4975 Atlantic Ave, 2) Andrea James on 70 Atlantic Ave, 3) Brittney Price and Shak Smart mural collab on 1731 East 4th st.
Nat Iosbaker teamed up with Noelle Martinez for their “CIELO” wall on display for anyone who passes through Atlantic Ave just north of Del Amo. The artist-led bike tour ended up at a blossoming restaurant, El Barrio, with a creatively infused tasting menu to match the week’s festivities. El Barrio truly went all-in on this year’s festivities as Brittney Price teamed up with Shak to paint another duo — two beautifully intertwined women — on one of el barrios’ walls.
The jam-packed week included a Beach Party with a DJ set and a Giant Gorilla adorned with a one-of-a-kind Balloonski gold chain. For the seekers, SunBum and their mascot (Sunny) put on a “finders/keepers” game in which all were invited to score some sweet SunBum swag, conveniently spelling out POW WOW. Sticking with the general theme, SALUD brought a giant banana seesaw for their boy Sunny.
Balloonski, Olga Lah, and Spenser Little — Art Renzei 2021 moving installations
Also on display were the works of both Olga Lah and Spenser Little. Olga Lah furnished a surrey cart with a big pink mesh bow, which traversed the coastline in a whimsical fashion, an early holiday present to the shore. Spenser Little designed a surrey cart with a large metal outline of a head, in which an angel and devil endlessly circled one another. His cart was aptly titled Emotional Weathervane. The last of the three surrey carts was a blue porcupine-looking creature, also created by Balloonski. The night was capped off with a screening of Disney’s SOUL on the beach.
Brendan Monroe — Pine and Seaside Ave.
Almost a meditation in and of itself, Brendan Monroe’s wall (composed mostly of black and white wavy lines) invites the viewer to take a longer look. Stare at it for a while and you’ll become mesmerized. He used his powers to give this wall life — the organic patterns look 3 dimensional and have a certain fluidity to them, somehow evoking a feeling of movement from a static wall.
Tang-Wei Hsu — Pine Ave. (between 8th and 9th)
Off of Pine Street, Tang-Wei Hsu created an inexplicably inter-connected world inspired by the colors and mood of Long Beach itself. If you’re looking for a portal to another alien planet, this is as good a place to start as any. The intricate patterns reflect upon themselves in a hypnotizing manner.
Wellness Sunday Yoga in front of TOM FRUIN’s stained-glass house was hard to pass up. Sunlit skies and stained glass had everyone feeling all warm and namaste. Just as yoga focuses on being present in the ever passing moment, this ephemeral piece was only on display for the week of the festival. That said, it was open all day long, and if you visited the house at night you could text it to have it respond via light patterns, rewarding the curious.
The week ended with a thank you dinner for all PWLB & AR artists at the Aquarium of the Pacific. Good food and fish were eaten and observed by all.
Looking ahead to 2022, the founding non-profit organization POW! WOW! is undergoing a re-brand. The festival parent will now be called World Wide Walls, with all of the host cities following suit. Thus, we are excited to begin planning our local ‘Long Beach Walls’ festival this summer. Follow our Instagram for more information on the upcoming events.
Thank you to the phenomenal photographers and videographers that documented the artist’s creative process and our programming.
Brandon Shigeta — Photos by @bshigeta
Adrian Gutierrez — Photos by @illogicaltruths
Calvin Nakamaru — Photos by by @cal_naka
Samantha Lopez — Photos by @samanthalouiselopez
Lei Deng — PWLB / AR 2021 Video by @rockydeng
Edward Tran — Photos and Video by @edwardtran
Adam Leeman — Videos by @billsteamboat