Thanks to a muralist and a group of Art & Design students, the new yakʔitʸutʸu living community is covered in 29 murals to honor the Northern Chumash Indigenous Tribe.
The new yakʔitʸutʸu living community, located at the Grand Avenue entrance to campus, consists of seven residence halls named in honor of the Indigenous Peoples of San Luis Obispo County. yakʔitʸutʸu is now home to 29 murals, created by San Francisco-based artist Strider Patton with help from students.
After an art consult who Patton works with heard word of the mural project, Patton knew he had to take on the job.
“Essentially the designs were done. They just needed somebody who could actually paint them,” Patton said.
With Patton’s past artistic expertise — including mostly outdoor and indoor mural work, educational work with collective mural making projects, and sculpture, the project came naturally. His expertise elsewhere fit the project at hand as well. Patton studied cultural anthropology before becoming a full-time artist.
“I love weaving in culture and the different ideas of tradition and religion into art,” Patton said.
The designs weave many cultural aspects in to create works of art. Each mural is centered around local landscape, local wildlife and local plants.
“All of them incorporate some kind of pattern from the Indigenous Tribe, Northern Chumash,” Patton said. “They have a lot of really beautiful patterns that they’ve used in their textiles and their art, coming down through their cultural history.”
Patton saw the mural project as a great opportunity to give students hands-on experience. He reached out to the Cal Poly Art and Design Department and selected three students to help him complete the murals. With their help and the help of one department alumnus, the murals were completed in about six weeks.
He said working with the students was an “awesome” experience for both him and the students.
“I would have loved to have an opportunity like this when I was their age,” Patton said.
Art and design seniors Alexa De Cardenas and Lauren Marshall, and art and design junior Anita Velazquez were Patton’s student interns for the project.
De Cardenas said she had never painted a large scale mural before, and she was excited for the challenge.
“It definitely was a long process, but it was super cool to see the murals once they were all done,” De Cardenas said.
Marshall said working with Patton was an enjoyable experience and that working with multiple murals for one project was inspiring.
“I loved how different each mural was and the different color schemes of each building,” Marshall said.
While the artists were painting the murals, the residential community was still an active construction zone. Used to studios, Patton, De Cardenas, and Marshall all said the project site was unlike anywhere they had worked before.
“These were active construction sights and still very much being built,” Patton said. “That was something I’d never really experienced before.”
He said WebCore, the residential hall’s lead construction company, was very helpful accommodated his team with whatever they needed.
“With every project there’s always a new challenge, and I find that so exciting,” Patton said.
Each artist was required to wear safety equipment while painting onsite. This included a bright neon vest, safety goggles, work boots, and a hard hat.
Despite the unusual working conditions of the residence halls — and the project taking place just weeks before Patton’s wedding — Patton and his team were able to complete the murals. When the project was finished, Marshall said they all “felt very satisfied it turned out the way [they] wanted it to.”
“It was awesome to contribute to the aesthetics of Cal Poly,” Patton said.
The murals now stand in the living community as not only works of art, but also an honor and celebration of the Chumash Indigenous Tribe and the local landscape of San Luis Obispo.