Where some see a plain white wall, Jax Meyers sees a blank canvas.
A couple of months ago, Meyers founded Paint Encinitas, a group dedicated to highlighting street murals and bringing more public art to the city.
“When art is public, anyone can access it,” Meyers said. “That’s not to knock museums. But not everyone can afford to see art at those places.”
At paintencinitas.org, visitors can peruse colorful murals splashed on businesses’ walls throughout the city. Accompanying each mural on the website: the artist’s name, a bit of history about its creation and the location.
“What you’re seeing is private businesses taking it upon themselves to put up this stunning art that makes you stop and look at it twice,” Meyers said. “By cataloguing the existing murals, hopefully that catalyzes more public art.”
From large murals on Café Ipe to the Leucadia Boulevard 7-Eleven, what makes Encinitas such a hotbed for public art?
“It’s difficult to say with certainty,” Meyers said. “I will say that we have a lot of artists. And if they aren’t artists, they’re a patron of the arts. We’re becoming this big arts community. So why not put it on our walls?”
And Meyers is sparking more artwork. She helped arrange for artist Skye Walker to paint a piece on the north wall of Royal Liquor. Titled “Remember California,” a debut party for the piece will be held there June 29 at noon.
“That’s the first thing — businesses have to be open to having art on their walls,” Meyers said. “I think a lot of them recognize that it’s good for the community and good for business.”
She added that she’s lining up more public murals, which she hopes to announce on her website soon.
Kevin Anderson, who has created murals throughout Encinitas, including at the Leucadia Mobil Gas Station and Kealani’s, said he “thought the mural thing was drying up six or seven years ago.”
“People associated it with graffiti, which it’s not,” Anderson said. “Since then, I’ve seen a turnaround. The community seems to love them.”
Anderson credited Paint Encinitas with fueling the demand for public art.
“The more the merrier I say,” Anderson said.
Meyers, who grew up in Encinitas, said she wasn’t able to visit many galleries or museums as a kid. But she distinctly remembers riding the train up to Los Angeles and admiring the eye-catching artwork outside.
“It left an impression,” Meyers said, noting it inspired her poetry, another one of her passions.
Later, after graduating from UCLA in 2010, she felt lost, unsure of what to do next. But enrolling in a program called City Year in Philadelphia — in which she mentored inner-city youths — gave her newfound purpose.
As part of the program, Meyers helped students paint murals in their neighborhoods and schools, showing her the power of art firsthand.
“It’s really special to go into a community with a lot of hardships — violence, drugs — and being able to connect with the youth through art,” Meyers said.
“Art enriches the community,” Meyers added. “And you see how the community takes ownership. It becomes a part of them.”
Two years passed in Philadelphia, and then Meyers moved back to Encinitas. Without a car, she walked and skateboarded around the city.
The slower pace afforded her a new appreciation of the city’s murals, both old and new ones that had popped up while away.
But the barren walls really stood out.
“It was a bit of a culture shock,” Meyers said. “Art was everywhere there (Philadelphia), and there wasn’t as much public art here.”
“I identified a need and went for it,” she added.
Given that Paint Encinitas is the first group of its kind in the city, she blazed her own path.
Despite having no experience in online design, she created the Paint Encinitas website from the ground up. For the page, she continues to track down who’s behind the extensive network of existing murals, which requires considerable digging in some cases.
Lately, she’s stayed busy hosting open meetings to inform the community about Paint Encinitas. And she constantly updates her Facebook and Twitter pages to get the word out.
Also, on a regular basis, she reaches out to businesses to gauge their interest in murals.
“It’s kind of my second full-time job,” said Meyers, who works as teacher’s assistant at a private school, with a laugh.
And she has no plans to stop.
On top of the aforementioned Paint Encinitas happenings, a mural tour is in the works. Additionally, Meyers would like to focus on preserving select murals.
“Sometimes they are just temporary because that’s the way of public art,” Meyers said. “Whenever possible, you want to save them because they become a part of the neighborhood.”