During the first weekend of Spring, our city celebrated the opening of a mural project in an unusual place. The mural, known as Bright Underbelly, was completed on the underside of a section of freeway. For years, Sacramento’s largest Farmer’s Market has met underneath the W/X freeway at 8th Street. The space’s main daily use is a parking lot, but thousands gather each Sunday to buy local fruits, veggies, cheese, honey, syrup, almonds, and many other items.
Typically, murals specifically done for Farmer’s Markets have a literal theme of fruits and veggies, but Bright Underbelly is not typical.
The mural is impressive and large. Each quadrant of the 70,000 square foot mural represents a different season of the year. The negative space illustrates an abstraction of what the tree canopy in Sacramento looks like during that season. Life-sized native birds, including those that nest in the spaces underneath the freeway, are sprinkled throughout. And all the phases of the moon are painted with a silver color that catches your eye as you move around underneath it.
While attending the community day celebration I found out that the process of adding the mural took about two years from initial idea to completion. It was funded by a handful of donors and was completed by LC Studio Tutto, in partnership with Tre Borden, City of Sacramento and CalTRANS. Because it was underneath an active freeway, the execution was challenging. Big trucks would cause shaking and rattling inches from their faces. Not to mention, it is an extremely large area requiring painting upside-down, while laying on a lawn chair inside of a scissor-lift.
Fortunately, they were able to use the existing grid from the way Interstate 5 is constructed, to map out the sections. “The 4×8′ blocks provided a grid for our painted abstract tree canopy. Each day we painted 24 of the blocks, in order to complete Bright Underbelly in six months,” said Sofia Lacin, one half of the duo that executed this enormous feat.
During the opening weekend, there were events each day that helped bring the community out to experience the space transformed. In addition to the community day I attended, there was a ribbon-cutting ceremony, and even a farm-to-fork dinner for 400 people. Over 1,000 people attended the weekend’s events.
“We love working in the public realm because the art is free and open, so we have access to the full community’s reaction. This interactive quality is wonderfully interesting and gratifying,” said Lacin.
It’s great to see the possibilities this recently-muraled space has. And also, the possibilities that our city is embracing towards placemaking. I am glad that Bright Underbelly was conceived, born and now is thriving. You wouldn’t expect anything else in Spring.