Luke McCabe lives across the street from the Gateway Supermarket on San Pablo Avenue in Oakland’s Golden Gate district, and he used to hear one of the managers of the store complaining about a graffiti problem on the store’s long wall that faces its parking lot on 59th Street.
“I told her if she would let me and my friends paint a picture then people wouldn’t mess up their wall anymore,” said McCabe, an artist with sessionspace, a collective made up primarily of painters in their 20s from around the country who live, work and showcase some of their art at their studio on San Pablo.
McCabe said the manager wasn’t sure the new mural would not quickly get tagged, so McCabe showed her examples of other public art murals he’s done around town, like the one at Greater Faith Baptist Church on 23rd and Telegraph that reads “Always Faithful,” and a nature scene at 57th and San Pablo. “It took a lot of convincing, but she eventually agreed,” McCabe said.
The Gateway Supermarket wall has seven panels, and McCabe’s idea was to have one letter of the word “Gateway” on each panel, making it look like one of the iconic California postcards. Each panel has scenes and imagery that refer to Oakland—the Bay Bridge, BART, the Oakland A’s—as well as to items that can be purchased at in the store, like fruits and vegetables, and an agriculture scene that includes a chicken and a pig.
“We try to do stuff that will fit the community,” McCabe said.
McCabe, who is 22 and from Salt Lake City, Utah, said he has been painting on walls for about seven years and said he hopes the murals “bring life” to the buildings in the area. “I really don’t like looking at boring stuff like blank walls,” he said, “so whenever me and my friends have a chance to draw on them, we’ll jump to it.”
McCabe said the group has other murals in the works, including ones at the One 4 All barbershop on 57th and San Pablo and an apartment building on 28th Street below Telegraph. The artists of sessionspace, a core group of six who met at California College of the Arts, also have open studios on San Pablo the first Friday of every month.
They do take suggestions from the community—McCabe said they added an Oakland Raiders logo to the “A” on the Gateway mural after a few people walking by asked why the A’s were represented but not the local NFL football team. “After the fifth person said that, I was like ‘All right, lets try to put a little ‘Raiders’ thing in here somewhere,’” McCabe said.