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Wildstyle: North Park Thrift Trader gets the full treatment

by Jill Holslin

There’s some new color on Iowa Street this week.  A couple of weeks ago, a crew of artists threw up some scaffolding and covered the Thrift Trader buildings on 3937 and 3939 Iowa Street in San Diego’s North Park with vibrant graffiti pieces.  And so, our already hip little neighborhood just got even cooler.

Distinctive style of local artist Chams

The effort was the result of a reunion of the TVC Crew, The Vicious Cycle, whose members came from all over the US and Canada.

Local artist Eyemax Threedee told me a little bit about the artists who came for the piece. “Yeah, well, it was the TVC reunion, so they all just came, and yeah. Kwest came from Canada, Drugs came from LA, Hassler, he’s kind of like the Soray guy,  Chams was here from HEM crew–he’s old school.  Brisk from Tribal, Kuya from Tribal, they’re all from TVC. Nobody was allowed to paint unless they were from TVC.  Sonar from Texas, and then Shug was from New Mexico, then there was Prose from here, Hassler’s from here…

“The reunion was already happening,” artist Chams explained to me,  ”and we were going to paint something.  And so, since Eyemax had access to a big wall, he got it for us.  He’s a good guy.”

“I just like spreading the love,” says Eyemax.  

“If I got a wall, I give it up to my friends. And we’re not done yet. We’re gonna paint the front of the building eventually.”

“Painting with Augor, he’s from  MSK,” says Eyemax, “was the highlight of my day.”

Eric, a Thrift Trader employee, told me that Saturday morning May 7,  about 30 guys showed up with spray cans in hand, and they painted the whole building in just two days.  And the new art is a big hit. Eric eagerly gave me a tour of the east side of the building, a role he’s getting used to now. Dozens of people are stopping by to photograph the art daily.  A few days ago, a couple of police officers rolled up, and raved about how fantastic the artwork looks.


There’s something for everyone here. According to Frank Kole, owner of Urban Body Gym on the other side of Iowa, “It looks even better at night. The paint around the faces lights up and looks really great.”

Click here for more of my photos of the Thrift Trader pieces on Flickr

Thanks for coming to my neighborhood, guys.  Glad to have you!

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  • http://bicyclingsd.blogspot.com Sam

    Loved the article!

    I walked the 6 miles home today instead of biking or taking the bus and noticed all sorts of tags everywhere – made by the city! If I didn’t know any better, I’d think they were gang symbols or code for bad things rather than pointings to SDGE hookups or electrical outlets. Being a strong believer in art, I do feel that kids in lower income neighborhood never have the opportunity to express themselves artistically and in demonizing graffiti, society continues to stifle their creative spirit.

  • jholslin

    Hi Sam, yes, if people were more open-minded about art, they would begin to see–as you have–that we are surrounded by official “tags” and symbols everywhere. Turning the cacophony of urban icons into art is brilliant and playful and fun, and clever people shouldn’t be punished for having a sense of humor, IMHO. And yeah, kids in low income neighborhoods, and basically any kid in a public school in America, is missing out on opportunities for art expression, for playing with drawing and painting. That’s why I do whatever I can to lobby politically for federal support for arts education. We have to stand up and demand it.

  • ken

    i think also, combined with art and expression, with graf comes the idea of who controls/owns public space. to live in an environment saturated with millions of ads and sdge notes and still not have any say about what gets put where is really frustrating for people. by writing on walls, even if its just a name you make up, people reclaim that part of their environment and the function of their environment.

    • jholslin

      Yeah, it’s funny, when I teach my classes on graffiti, my students still think it is perfectly OK for corporations to clutter up 95% of our visual space with billboards and ads, but when an artist bombs a wall in a back alley, they eagerly defend private property rights. People “don’t want to look at” graffiti, and so the artist never has a “right” to use the space. But what about my rights? What about what I want to see? I don’t want to look at McDonald’s & Jack in the Box & Verizon billboards everywhere I turn. When I see graffiti, I identify with that impulse you’re talking about, Ken, the desire to reclaim the environment.