Who says art and business can’t be bffs?
Walk eastward across South Park SD on Beech Street from 28th Street, at stately Balboa Park, towards tree-lined Fern Street. At the intersection with busy 30th Street, you will be suddenly greeted by the Goddess of Wisdom and Strength. The Romans called her “Minerva.”
She’s encircled clockwise by the Latin words “VIRIBVS”, “CIVITAS” and “SALVTEM.”
That’s the motto of resident business GFit: Strength – Community – Health.
GFit co-owner Kristen Lucek cheerfully and proudly approached as I was taking pictures. By the time we finished “Hello” and a handshake I understood the mural on another level.
Lucek’s eyes betrayed a level of barely-contained ebullience and zest for life that I wouldn’t have expected from someone who’d just spent 45 minutes wrangling kettlebells and engaging her medial trapezius. Her robust grip offered what this former wrestler would call a firm handshake.
Vitality and intensity. Embodied in this woman.
Now look at the mural again.
Artist Jonny Pucci offered a personal, thoughtful summary of the piece and process:
“I wanted to paint this wall because I live in the neighborhood and had been passing by Gfit for months thinking someone needs to paint that big empty wall. My girlfriend Celeste (who is also a muralist) suggested I ask the business owners if I could have the space, so I emailed Kristen who owns Gfit with her sister and we began a conversation about what we all wanted for that wall.
From the beginning I wanted to address in some way that it is a female-owned gym, without beating anyone over the head with it. I had the idea of referencing classical art and mythology around strong female figures and decided to depict the Roman goddess Minerva (Athena in Greek mythology) whom I believe embodied female wisdom and strength in the ancient world. After talking with Kristen she let me know that she wanted the wall to be brightly colored so I decided to surround the sculptural element with colorful flowers. In this case I opted for chrysanthemums, orchids and plum blossoms as these flowers are important in traditional Chinese art and culture, which I felt was an appropriate nod since the ‘G’ in Gfit is for ginseng which has thousands of years of cultural importance in China.” (J. Pucci, personal communication, Feb. 4, 2020).
Lucek explained that, prior to being approached by Pucci, she had big-time concerns about how safe and respected the mural would be. But she took the risk in order to reflect the spirit of the community she is part of AND proactively building (K. Lucek, personal communication, Feb. 4, 2020).
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Let’s take a closer look at Lucek and Pucci’s combined vision from every angle I could capture without pulling a muscle.
It’s easy to enjoy this work on a gut level. There are, however, a couple elements of it that I want to emphasize.
Also, it was immensely clever to darken Minerva’s left side as the adjacent Paperbark tree casts morning shadow in that direction anyway.
I’m pleased to live in a neighborhood where business owners enthusiastically support local artists who are, in turn, eager to “paint that big empty wall.” Where women and men work together to create an inclusive, welcoming environment.
This is Minerva’s community, and I’m all for it.
Thanks for reading and stay tuned!!