Art is everywhere in downtown Bakersfield. Because our city’s population is larger than that of Pittsburgh, St. Louis or Honolulu, it is easy to miss all the public art on display. Visit Bakersfield recently completed the first-ever comprehensive inventory of public art and art galleries in downtown. The result is ArtTrek, a self-guided walking tour of downtown Bakersfield’s public art. Whether you are a longtime Bakersfield resident, first-time visitor or somewhere in between, ArtTrek offers something new to explore downtown.
Like other efforts from Visit Bakersfield, ArtTrek was developed in response to requests from visitors — in this case, “Where can we see public art?” With ArtTrek, there are almost 100 paintings, murals, sculptures, painted signal boxes and art galleries in downtown ready to be explored.
Studies have shown that art is an economic driver. The thought behind ArtTrek is not just to bring people downtown; it is to get them to stay longer. The greater the time people spend downtown, the greater the chance they will spend their money.
With ArtTrek, you can create your own personalized walking tour. Select from more than 30 murals, 16 sculptures and 32 painted signal boxes, along with paintings, landscape designs, fine art collections, tile art, plus more than 10 galleries, all plotted out on a detailed and color-coded map of downtown.
Here are a few highlights:
• Three Guitars, a mural by Al Mendez and Sebastian Muralles, 1711 19th St. This colorful three-part mural, highlighting Bakersfield’s rich music history of locally made guitars, was winner of a 2014 Beautiful Bakersfield Award. It is on the east side of Front Porch Music.
• Wind, a sculpture by Carol Gold, 1300 17th St. This sculpture was the winner of a public art competition at this building by the Central District Development Agency (later the Bakersfield Redevelopment Agency).
• Farm Animals mural by Don Hollis and Tyler Cristobal, 1702 18th St. Look up to see farm animals watching you eat in the Farmacy Cafe at the Padre Hotel. As a reversal of roles, the artists put the viewer in the pen with the animals on the outside looking in.
• Painted utility boxes. More than 30 utility boxes in downtown Bakersfield have been transformed into public art by local artists.
• Pioneer Spirit by James T. Russell, 1001 Truxtun Ave. This sculpture was a national commission by the Centennial Celebration Foundation for the opening of Centennial Plaza in 1998. It consists of two forms — one 9 feet and another 12 feet.
• Tile art by Jill Thayer, east side of Mexicali Restaurant, 631 18th St. Recreated from a folklore reference, this work was designed for Mexicali to coincide with the opening of Mill Creek Linear Park. It can be viewed along the Mill Creek path between 17th and 18th streets.
• Murals at Maya Cinemas, 1000 California Ave. There are 14 murals by various artists on the exterior walls of Maya Cinemas, winners in a juried art competition organized by Maya Cinemas and the Arts Council of Kern featuring works inspired by movies and the moviegoing experience.
Pick up your free copy of the ArtTrek brochure at Visit Bakersfield (515 Truxtun Ave.), the Arts Council of Kern (1330 Truxtun Ave., Suite B) and many Bakersfield hotels, RV parks, downtown art galleries and the Amtrak station. It also can be downloaded at www.VisitBakersfield.com/ArtTrek. The ArtTrek brochure was funded by a grant from The Bakersfield Californian Foundation and is a collaborative effort with the Arts Council of Kern.
ArtTrek is just another way to show that in Bakersfield, there really is more to explore!
— David Lyman, Ph.D., is manager of Visit Bakersfield. He and other members of Team More to Explore help visitors from throughout the world spend their money in California’s ninth largest city. They are available toll-free at 866-425-7353 or at Info@VisitBakersfield.com.