Art in the community: Take a self-guided tour of Pacific Beach’s many murals
Muralists help PB businesses with their artistic vision
As if the ocean views and landscapes weren’t scenic enough, many Pacific Beach residents strive to be surrounded with as much beauty and art as possible.
The PB Mural Walk — a self-guided tour of large murals traversing the town from the ocean nearly to Interstate 5, and from Turquoise Street nearly to Crown Point Beach — brings unique pieces right down to the ground level for passersby.
“Prior to the pandemic, Leslie Dufour, a volunteer with beautifulPB, led many of the tours,” said Katie Matchette, beautifulPB president. “There’s so much great art in PB and so many prominent artists here. We often see people taking the walking tour in groups.”
The PB Murals program includes more than 50 murals, sculptures, historic landmarks and utility box art, and is one of several projects under the beautifulPB umbrella.
The volunteer organization, formed in 2011, implements projects and programs creating a more sustainable, equitable and beautiful community. Members include Pacific Beach residents, businesses and property owners.
“The history of murals — from the early 20th century renaissance in Mexico, led by artists such as Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siqueiros — continues to influence muralists today,” said Dufour, a beautifulPB member.
Some of the works harken back to their Mexican heritage, such as the Katie Gaines’ mermaid painted at Pueblo restaurant, inspired by the traditional La Sirena image, Dufour said.
Gaines also painted a colorful Volkswagen bus on the same building.
Matthew Millington’s Quetzalcoatl, also at Pueblo, is a depiction of the feathered serpent deity of ancient Mesoamerican people, she added.
Several murals are by unknown artists. But many of the works have become iconic through the years, and many of the artists are not only known locally, but throughout the world. Most have only positive things to say about their time spent creating pieces in Pacific Beach.
For example, Kathleen King was one of the first artists to create a mural in PB. King is also the artist behind the America’s Finest City mural in downtown San Diego.
“She grew up in PB and the mural she is often associated with locally is her depiction of the town from the 1940s, based on a historic photograph taken in 1943,” Dufour said.
Want to go on PB's mural walk?
Online maps — one interactive and another watercolor — for taking self-guided tours of the PB Mural Walk are at beautifulPB.com/art-in-place-2021.
Since the vintage-looking mural is at 979 Garnet Ave., it’s easy for viewers to compare how the town has — and has not — changed over time.
Not all murals have such serious subjects. The fanciful characters inhabiting the murals on Cheba Hut, 4651 Mission Blvd., were created by Oregon-based artist Bayne Gardner. He reportedly wanted to offer local residents and visitors “something colorful and playful” that would “get people to smile.”
One of the more well-known murals in PB is at an equally iconic location; the owl representing the Nite Owl Cocktail Lounge, at 2772 Garnet Ave., on the corner of Garnet Ave. and Mission Bay Drive.
The classic dive bar has been open since 1962.
Hanna Daly, the painter behind Hanna’s Murals, said she was contacted around 2019 by the new owner at the time of the Night Owl.
“He wanted something urban and hip to spice up the corner,” she said.
Growing up in San Diego, she’s been painting for nearly 20 years. She said she’s always loved to hang out in PB and skate the boardwalk.
She said the owner gave her a lot of artistic freedom, which she appreciated.
“I did the first mural of the owl on the west side wall; I didn’t realize how iconic the spot was at the time. People sit at that light forever on their way in and out of PB,” Daly said.
She later painted the east wall, which is seen when entering PB.
But the job came with some unexpected challenges.
“When I was painting the east wall I heard a crash and an older man had run into the wall — while I was painting it,” she recalled.
As if that didn’t make her nervous enough about finishing the job, she said a truck next hit part of the roof of the building and “took it off.”
With the murals finished and her nerves recovered, Daly said, “It’s a very fun mural for me; everyone knows it. And the Night Owl is a great place to hang out, with super folks there.”
Although not all her creations are part of the Mural Walk, Daly has multiple projects scattered across Pacific Beach, including the La Clochette Du Coin Bakery at 4680 Cass St.; Biggies Burgers at 4631 Mission Blvd.; Kono’s Cafe at 704 Garnet Ave. and Kitchens for Good at 980 Hornblend St. She said each project was the result of people seeing the original Night Owl mural.
“When I first started doing outdoor murals 19 years ago, many communities were afraid to include them,” Daly said. “They were afraid they might be too controversial and it was hard to convince them otherwise.
“Now, a lot more areas have accepted them,” she said. “But PB was very accepting of them before anyone else and they were bolder with their artistic choices.”
More of Daly’s creations can be seen at hannasmurals.com.
Artist Gloria Muriel, who also goes by the name Glow, has been a fine arts painter and muralist full time since 2011, when she said she just decided to “go for it.”
A native of Mexico City and raised in Mexicali, Muriel said she now spends more time in San Diego than Mexico.
Her work often features a surreal, whimsical quality, based on her psychedelic connection to Mother Earth and the four elements.
In Pacific Beach, her painting on the side of the French Gourmet Restaurant can be seen at 960 Turquoise St. The artwork features a round-eyed French girl, drinking a hot cup of tea with her French bulldog beside her and the Eiffel Tower in the background.
Done in 2012, Muriel said, “It was one of my first walls, and I wasn’t used to heights. I was really nervous, and I didn’t paint at all the first day. I just sat there and gave myself a pep talk.”
Fortunately, the restaurant owner was really cool and supportive, she said.
“It was awesome and we made it work,” Muriel said, noting that now, small heights don’t bother her, but anything over three stories can still “make me anxious.”
The scaffolding ended up playing another unexpected role.
“Because it hides a lot of the painting, people can’t see the whole thing,” she said. “So a lot of people were intrigued and came up to talk and ask me about my work.”
Muriel said she is especially fond of partnering with nonprofits, and her work can be found at Rady Children’s Hospital, Pangea Seed Murals for Oceans, Autism Tree Project, San Diego Autism Society and Rady Children’s Specialists.
Her most recent project has been painting a wall at Botanica in North Park. When it is finished, Muriel said she will be traveling to Mexico to work with the Mexican Institute of Social Services.
“There are communities there that are known for their work making ceramics,” Muriel said. “But they are using a toxic sealer for the clay. We will be trying to help members of the communities with their health and to come up with alternatives for the future.”
No matter where her work takes her, Muriel said she continues to look forward to painting murals.
“Every single mural is an adventure and a challenge. Every one has different colors, different wall textures and even different energy,” she explained.
Even while taking a brief break to discuss her work, Muriel was eager to get back to it.
“With a beach scene, really nice weather and a lot of really nice people, PB is great,” she said.
To follow her adventures visit gloriamuriel.com.
Artist Hilary Dufour — Leslie’s daughter — also has a special fondness for PB.
“I want to support PB and I’m biased,” she laughed. “I’m from here and live here now and there is a lot of opportunity to bring more art into town.”
As a geographic information systems (GIS) analyst, Hilary Dufour said her full-time job is very technical, so “it’s nice to have a creative outlet” in her artistic work.
One of her works is at Coffee Cycle, 1632 Grand Ave. She was a customer of the brew before the shop became her client.
“I love the people who work there and their coffee; I think it’s the best coffee in PB,” Hilary Dufour said.
“They had a wall in the back that looked like it could use some color and art. The owner agreed to let me do a mural and gave me the freedom to decide what to do,” she said.
The resulting work features a colorful tiger in a ying-and-yang moment with a coffee plant. The border features black and white poppies, with espresso beans in place of the plant fruit.
“I wanted it to fit the aesthetic as to how the coffee shop looked at the time, which was white walls with a burlap sack border that had linocut-style designs,” Hilary Dufour explained. “It was fun to learn about coffee plants while I was doing it.”
Hilary Dufour said she strives to work with her clients throughout the process by understanding what they want the art to bring to the space. She usually brings in elements of the business so she can “match” the existing environment. But she admits if she “can incorporate native plants and wildlife, I love to do that.”
For her first mural, inside San Diego Cyclery (formerly Pacific Beach Bikes) at 1632 Grand Ave., she “wanted to create a vibrant design fitting the vibe of a bike shop in a beach town.”
The result was a vibrant jungle of colorful tropical plants and flowers interspersed with large bold bike chain rings.
Tropical plants were also the theme of a large outdoor mural she designed for a private residence in Pacific Beach, although the color theme was primarily pink and aqua.
“Although it’s not visible to the public, it adds a lot of color to the space and the owner is happy,” Dufour said.
“It’s a really fun challenge to go into a space without any preconceived notions, to visit and get a feel for it. I’m very inspired by my clients and the local scenery,” she said.
Dufour’s murals, painting and photography can be seen at hilarydufour.com. Culture Brewing Co. hosted a show of her art in September. Her next solo show will be in October 2023 at Thumbprint Gallery in La Jolla.
Whether it’s John Lennon with a daisy in his eye on the side of Five Guys Burgers and Fries, 1020 Garnet Ave., painted by Steve Garrow or the menagerie of undersea creatures popping up on buildings all over town, Leslie Dufour said she invites residents and guests to explore the PB Mural Walk.
“We encourage everyone to go out and enjoy the great art available in PB,” she said.
Visit beautifulPB.com for more information about the organization. To find online maps — one interactive and another watercolor — for taking self-guided tours of the PB Mural Walk, visit beautifulPB.com/art-in-place-2021. Many of the artists can be found on Instagram.