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Community Mural Initiative Continues At City Heights Convenience Store

A view of the site for the upcoming mural on an alley-facing wall behind the ...

Photo by Matthew Bowler

Above: A view of the site for the upcoming mural on an alley-facing wall behind the 7 Eleven on University Avenue in City Heights, June 22, 2018. The mural across from the bare brick facade was also organized by The Avenue Mural Project.

You may know 7-Eleven for its convenience and snacks, but this weekend, community organizers want a local store and the street it sits on to be known for its art. The store in San Diego’s City Heights neighborhood will play host to the second annual Love City Heights Day celebration that will feature music, vendors, artists at work and a live mural painting.

Volunteer organizer Carlos Quezada said the Sunday event is part of a larger effort to install murals on store facades along a nearly one-mile stretch of University Avenue.

"We just need permission from the business owner and the building owner in order to start the process," Quezada said. "We’re not asking for any funds. If they can provide it that would be great but as of right now, we’re really working with a zero budget."

The initiative is known as The Avenue Mural Project, which then-City Heights resident Quezada helped launch last year to revitalize a main street in the lower-income community. Research shows public art initiatives like mural painting can boost economic development and community identity.

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Quezada, who relocated to La Mesa but is looking to move back to City Heights, said he and his fellow organizers hope to create a drive-through gallery along the corridor by arranging one mural a month over the next year.

Artist Ruben Rojas, who will paint the mural at the City Heights 7-Eleven, said he's witnessed the benefits of public art after organizing more than 700 murals across the country and several in other nations as co-founder of the nonprofit Beautify Earth. The organization's mission is to cover public spaces with art.

"We realized that not only do people feel better, they respect their community more, they clean after themselves, it also brings revenue to businesses. We've seen 10 to 50 percent increases in revenue on businesses with murals," Rojas said.

He said he has also seen a similar effect when painting murals in schools.

"When you can go in there and do some really cool, fun art, get the kids involved, they respect it a little bit more; they keep their school a little bit cleaner," he said. "But also the teachers that are there for 10, 15 years, the principle, admin, all the staff that see the same thing over and over — it makes a big impact when there's art there."

The Avenue Mural Project in City Heights started around the time of the first Love City Heights day celebration. Back then, Quezada and other organizers set a goal of one mural a month, but they fell four short. The installation to be painted by Rojas will be the eighth.

Quezada said even if the group comes up shy again next year, he'll continue investing his time — and often his own money for art supplies — until the mission of a mural-saturated corridor is complete.

"Until we're able to complete our project in the way that we know we can, we're going to continue the hustle and going to continue struggling but being as successful as we have been," Quezada said.

The organizers received a proclamation from the mayor's office at the Love City Heights celebration last year. A representative from the mayor's office will again be attending this year.

Love City Heights Day celebration

Where: 3515 University Ave.

When: Sunday, June 24, 12 to 4 p.m.

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