South Park SD: Burmese Monk Mural

An Alano Club stands defiantly catty-corner to a liquor store.

That’s not a joke waiting for a punchline. It’s a fact of life at 30th and Grape Streets in South Park SD.

Recovery and drugs of addiction are as art and real estate in this village. A Moose Lodge burned down in the center of town 10 years ago yesterday. Only months later, an enormous and beautiful mural was created just blocks away.

The neighborhood is so full of yin yang its residents might as well speak Chinese. Or convert to Taoism.

  • Ni hui bu hui shuo Zhongguo-hua? (Do you speak Chinese?)
  • Wo bu hui shuo Zhongguo-hua. Wo hui shuo Waiguo-hua. (Hell no. I tête-à-tête in a foreign language.)

Chinese questions are phrased more like courtroom interrogations. The question above literally translates, “You can no can speak [Mandarin] Chinese-language?”.

Or, if you are a dramatic prosecuting attorney, “Can you or can you not communicate in Mandarin?!? Who are you working for!! I want justice! I want the truth! Attica! Attica! You’re out of order! The whole trial’s out of order! Your Honor, please instruct the ^*&%#$ witness to answer the *@#%!& question!”

That’s all I remember from studying Mandarin 30 years ago in college. I have spoken those phrases to native Mandarin speakers and they definitely clarify things for everyone involved.

Chinese characters, though, are gorgeous and make written language a visual art form. Shame I can’t remember any of ’em.

Okay, so Chinese is out.

Let’s move on from gorgeous Chinese characters to stunning Burmese Monks.


Street artist Shepard Fairey is best known for creating President Barack Obama’s iconic ’08 “Hope” image. In 2010, he painted a 3-story mural on the North wall of the Ivy Street shared-office building in South Park SD.

The work has received more than a little press:

  • In “Tripbucket” here.
  • Click here for a mention in Tricycle: The Buddhist Review.
  • Find it here, on the San Diego Tourism’s website under “Art…”.
  • The San Diego Reader posted this on July 24, 2010.
  • On a different medium.


Filmmaker Jason Kantor posted this summary to accompany his YouTube video, Shepard Fairey creating Public’s Ivy Street building mural:

“This South Park, San Diego landmark came about as part of the Museum of Contemporary Art 2010 show, Viva La Revolucion. Fairey, one of today’s most influential graphic artists, was among 20 different artists adding to the urban visual landscape throughout San Diego during the MOCA show. The mural image he created, at Public’s Ivy Street building, 2202 30th St., has become a piece of the neighborhood identity. The clean facade of cement block has become a giant canvas graced with the serene image of a young Buddhist monk, surrounded by detailed gold tapestry. The process is documented with artist interviews & commentary as the building and the neighborhood are enlivened & transformed. If you haven’t seen Public’s Ivy Street building and the mural in South Park, check out this intriguing story & then head over to see it in person. A lasting piece of beauty indeed, including the mural.”

Click here for the full story from the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego’s website.

Click here for a map of the murals to see l’il old South Park SD.


I would like to get to know the artist but he’s pretty busy. So the best I could do was put his spoken words into text. The following is a section of Fairey speaking, beginning at 1:11 of the linked video, of his motivation and perspective:

“So, for me, I’m always inspired to find the solutions, to talk about topics I want to talk about in my work, but put it across in a way that might catch someone’s attention, their imagination and just… make them want to look at the image and look deeper into it because it just struck them on a visual level. In the gut.

This piece is the first all-stencil image, at this scale, that I’ve done… It’s a mixture of painting with rollers and a brush to create the fade but then the primary imagery is created with stencils.

Most of my work, historically, has been done with [we pasted/pasting] up posters or large painted-in images. Because it is usually temporary. This is gonna be permanent, so it was worth the extra effort to paint the entire thing.

I am excited that it’s gonna be something that lasts longer than most of my illegal street art and… I think it’s an important thing for the community to see.. artists who started in the margins, make the transition to being seen as… more legitimate because I think it inspires other creative people to try to take what they’re doing further.”


Let’s enjoy the work some more…


Shepard Fairey’s work is stunningly poised.


It is yet another reason to looove South park SD.


Zaijian, zaijian!

Thanks for reading and stay tuned!!

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