Murals are usually front and center, loud and clear, impossible to miss. In my systematic wandering of Berkeley, I have come across several hidden murals. Murals in and of themselves are quirky, and the fact that a mural is not easily seen makes it even more quirky.
In addition to the previously published Jane Norling mural that was originally painted in San Francisco and now can be seen if you peek over her Berkeley fence, I have found three (or four, depending how you count) hidden murals.
The first, “Winds of Change,” appears on what used to be the eastern wall of the Co-Op Credit Union on University Avenue. The Consumers Cooperative of Berkeley, which we knew simply as the Co-Op, operated from 1939 until 1988. In its prime, it was the largest cooperative of its kind in the United States or Canada. The University Avenue store was opened in 1937 by the Berkeley Buyers’ Club, an organization founded by members of the Upton Sinclair-inspired End Poverty in California. The Co-Op closed in 1988 as a result of financial and internal governance disputes.
The mural was originally 16 feet high and 135 feet long. O’Brien Thiele and Daniel Galvez worked with Osha Newman on the mural.
Newman describes the creation of the mural: “When I designed the People’s Park mural at Haste and Telegraph I was living on unemployment insurance. We put a can out on the street and collected donations to pay for supplies and lunch. It was all volunteer labor. Then I won a competition for a mural on the back of the Co-op Credit Union at University Avenue.”
You walk back into a courtyard at University Avenue Cooperative Housing, 1450 University Ave. On the east-facing walls are segments of the “Winds of Change” mural, fading, but still inspiring:
Parts of another Osha Newmann mural can be found in two campus-area churches. Part One is a remnant of his work in the meeting room of the University Lutheran Chapel, 2425 College Ave.
Pastor Jeff Johnson of the Chapel explains that much of the mural was removed when the church remodeled the meeting room in the early 2000s. Pastor Johnson sent along photos of the mural before removal. Eduardo Pineda pieced the photos together to create this image:
Pastor Johnson explains: “As you can see from reviewing the entire mural on the slide, it is the story of creation from the garden, through the fall (capitalist excess, homelessness, etc.), to the restoration. I think that the restoration photo has been lost.”
The Lutheran Chapel staff told me that she thought that large parts of the mural had been taken to the Trinity Methodist Church at 2362 Bancroft and placed in the meeting room where the breakfast program is held. Sure enough, there it is.
Switching style-gears, several blocks away are the original offices for the Center of Independent Living, on Telegraph just south of Dwight. On the southern wall of the parking lot are the fading remnants of mural by Ed Monroe celebrating the disability rights movement. The mural is faded and perhaps not long for the world, but it is eerily inspiring. I thank Ted Friedman for leading me to this mural. I had missed it.
These three (or four) more-or-less hidden murals present the Berkeley of another time, a time when “struggle” was a coded word suggesting a good-vs-evil, us-vs-them view of the world. Faded, built-over, or divided between two churches, they are artistic and cultural treasures.
For a fuller treatment of the hidden murals of Berkeley, see Quirky Berkeley.
Tom Dalzell, a labor lawyer, created a website, Quirky Berkeley, to share all the whimsical objects he has captured with his iPhone. The site now has more than 8,600 photographs of quirky objects around town as well as posts where the 30-year resident muses on what it all means. Check out the NewYorker.com article on Dalzell, published on Nov. 20. This is the thirteenth installment in the series.
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