A barbershop in Orcutt is home to a brand new public mural, thanks to a local artist and community activist.
Ruben Espinoza gets fired up talking about the importance of public art. He devotes much of his time and work as an artist to the cause, which he said is an important tool for community growth and strength. As an artist, he always has an eye out for blank canvases that would make good displays for public art, and the brick wall at the Old Orcutt Barber Shop called out to him.
“It started back in early February,” Espinoza said. “I approached the barber shop owner because I like the brick wall and I wanted to paint a mural there. I’ve always wanted to create public art. I want more color in our town, in Orcutt and in Santa Maria.”
Old Orcutt Barber Shop owner Alberto Licerio always wanted to have a mural on the brick wall outside of his shop. When Espinoza approached him with the idea, he immediately jumped at the opportunity.
“For me, it’s about giving back to the community,” Licerio said. “It’s about making it beautiful for everyone.”
Licerio doesn’t own the building where he’s had his barber shop for the past eight years, so Espinoza had to first clear it with the owners. Then he had to track down the proper county agencies to obtain permits to start work on the project.
Espinoza worked for a few months to formulate a theme, collaborating on different ideas. He gave Licerio sketches and thoughts the two men discussed until settling on a cohesive theme.
“We wanted a theme that would reflect the community,” Espinoza said. “I really want more tourism here. I want more people to discover Orcutt and Santa Maria.”
He wanted something that highlighted the history of Orcutt and California as well so anyone visiting the community could relate to the art. Espinoza said the mural has a message and it’s one that reflects their love of the region.
The mural is painted with images that evoke iconic scenery from the California roadways, including water towers and highway signs.
“The message is ‘always take the scenic route,’” Espinoza said. “Not just in Orcutt, but in life.”
For Espinoza, the project is part of a larger goal. He said he wants locals to be more educated and feel less intimidated about art in general
“[People] feel like, if they can’t draw then they must not understand it,” he said. “I want public art because it beautifies the city, and I want Old Orcutt and Santa Maria to have a unique identity, as opposed to just plain old beige buildings and box buildings you see everywhere.”
Espinoza’s mural was completed just in time for Orcutt’s First Friday on Sept. 8, an event that features local artisans and vendors as well as music and activities for children.
As for Licerio, he said he is thrilled with the outcome.
“The Central Coast is one of the world’s best vacation getaways and we live in it,” Licerio said. “I want people to be happy where they live.”
Arts and Lifestyle writer Rebecca Rose has painted on a few bare walls in her days. Contact her at [email protected].