Op-Ed: The Greying of Isla Vista

The housing complex at 6721 El Colegio Rd. in Isla Vista was once home to a colorful mural that has now been painted over (Photo: Ann Hefferman)

By Ann Hefferman

Between 2014 and 2016 I was invited by the UCSB Housing Office and the Interdisciplinary Humanities Center to lead the Urban Art Workshop (UAW) class. This was the only art class for credits available to non-(art)majors and every quarter it was full to capacity with eager students.

The Housing Office secured agreements from property owners to have us paint murals on the facades of their apartment buildings. The designs created by the students, were approved by the owners. In this short 2-year timeframe the UAW classes completed 6 murals all over Isla Vista adding to the colorful, eclectic cityscape.

A UCSB student painted mural at 6721 El Colegio Rd. in Isla Vista that was completed between 2014-2016 has recently been painted over by new property owners (Photo: Ann Hefferman)

As of last week, all of them are still there, except one.

As one more insult to injury by Core Spaces (developers based in Chicago responsible for the largest mass “renoviction” in California), the most vibrant mural of them all has been painted over in gunmetal grey.

The mural, a colorful underwater seascape, ran along the wall in front of the CBC and The Sweeps apartment complexes, 6721 El Colegio Rd. in Isla Vista.

The newly painted gray wall that once held a colorful mural painted by UCSB students at 6721 El Colegio Rd. in Isla Vista (Photo: Ann Hefferman)

As a street painter (I Madonnari and other festivals) I’m very familiar with ephemeral art. Street painting is an artform that is more about performance than permanence. And while nothing is guaranteed to be permanent, these murals allowed students a sense of accomplishment, a pride of place and most importantly, a creative outlet to counter the stresses of academia.

A student in the class who helped paint this mural commented that one of the best experiences she had at UCSB was being a part of making this mural come to life.

The apartment is now painted white with gunmetal grey accents (to match the wall.)

As disheartened as I was to see our touchstone disappear, part of me is grateful that our work won’t be associated with a property belonging to Core Spaces.

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  1. Interesting how little community interest ” a vertically integrated ecosystem focused on building, buying, and managing student housing and build-to-rent communities” billion dollar investment fund from Chicago appears to have. Thanks for posting this. Food for thought about how big money can affect our lives. In not so good ways.

    • It’s a new owner. The previous owner approved the mural years ago until the Chicago company purchased it and evicted all the tenants in order to “remodel” and jack up the price. In this process it looks like they painted over local artist’s work.

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