BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Railway overcrossings aren’t generally recognized for their beauty. But add some art and some purpose and magical things can happen. That’s the case 30 feet below the Beale Avenue overpass in east Bakersfield — a concrete canvas designed to inspire.
Messages of empowerment can come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and locations. Even an East Bakersfield underpass, where mural artists are making a statement.
A statement about finding beauty in the most unlikely of places.
A statement about finding potential in a neighborhood not always associated with achievement.
A statement about each individual’s value in society. Especially girls’ value.
A statement about opportunity, dignity, and empowerment.
The mural, about two weeks from completion, is all of those things.
It’s below the Beale Avenue bridge that crosses over the Union Pacific tracks in Old Town Kern.
It’s not just a visual experience — it’s an auditory one, too, thanks to the racket of traffic overhead — urban noise that underscores this unique pairing of grit and grace.
The murals — it’s actually two facing concrete walls a block apart — will portray seven real-life neighborhood girls. The message: girls’ lives matter.
Brandon Thompson and Jennifer Williams-Cordova are the mural artists.
“This project is about a message of empowerment for all people here in East Bakersfield,” Thompson said, “but especially for the young women and little girls of East Bakersfield in this specific community.”
“It’s for the girls in the neighborhood,” said Williams-Cordova. “It’s a symbol of empowerment and inspiration.”
Ward 2 Bakersfield City Councilman Andrae Gonzales secured the financing for the project.
“The project is a project of the HUB of Bakersfield, which is a nonprofit that is about a year and half old now,” he said. “We’re focused on revitalizing the urban core. … We partnered with the Kern Arts Council — David Gordon there is wonderful. He in turn partnered with the Virginia and Alfred Harrell Foundation, which contributed close to $10,000 to help us with this project.”
Monica Partida’s 6-year-old daughter Gianna Zendejas is one of the girls on the nearly complete south wall.
“It just starts with bringing smiles to people’s faces, you know, just driving by and seeing that it’s not so bad over here,” Partida said. “And then I also hope it inspires young girls.”
11-year-old Kayla De La O-Martinez and her mother Juanita De La O are proud to be a part of the undertaking.
“It’s supposed to symbolize that whoever sees this mural can be whoever they want to be,” the sixth-grader said.
The mural will also make clear that “the east side is a beautiful place, and other people can know about it and visit this side of town,” the girl’s mother said.
The mural, even in its present state of completion, is already making an impression.
Kizzy Lucky grew up in the same East Bakersfield neighborhood and moved to another city as an adult. She decided to drive through the old neighborhood on New Year’s Day — and she was stunned by what she saw.
“I think it’s beautiful, especially being that I grew up here and moved away and came back,” she said. “I didn’t want to come back because I just felt like over the years how bad things were here, but it seems like it’s getting better. It’s a beautiful thing.”
The murals will be finished Jan. 15 if all goes according to schedule. But already those who’ve taken it in are feeling a little better about themselves and this challenging world.
The message is loud and clear, as loud as the cars overhead. Girls of Bakersfield, you can be somebody.