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Public Murals



"Giraphics", 1983, repainted in 1994 due to freeway seismic retrofit. Oils on concrete, 32 feet high by six to eight feet wide each. Seven different giraffes are painted beneath the 580 freeway on the freeway support pillars and walls at Harrison Street in Oakland, California. Originally funded by Oakland's Office of Community Development, the giraffe figures were re-commissioned by Cal Trans in 1994 due to the need to rewrap the columns following the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989. The giraffe murals were first looked upon as humorous addition to the freeway underpass and only over time have become accepted as an integral part of the aesthectics of the "place". Numerous community and individual donations helped in the effort to create and restore them.

Both Intersection for the Arts and the San Francisco Mural Resource Center helped with different aspects of the project.

The giraffe murals have received many awards including an Orchid Award by the Oakland City Assets Committee as well as being cited for the artist in receiving an O.B.A. award in 1987. The Express newspaper has named the giraffe murals in their annual Best of the East Bay over five times. Similarly, the Bay Guardian has awarded the giraffes as "Best Mural of the Bay Area" as well as "Best of the East Bay" in different years. Even San Francisco Chronicle's legendary columnist, Herb Cain, mentioned the giraffes on occasion, and a local cartoonist included them in a syndicated comic strip!

Personal stories from the thousands of people who've contacted me about the giraffe murals include one woman whose children gave each of the giraffes a pet name. Another admirer, told of visiting the giraffes every so often to trim the bushes so as to make the figures look like they were feeding on the foliage! Many have expressed how they take out of town visitors by the site as a way of introducing people to the art of Oakland. Yet another person told of how her children would ask her mother to drive by the giraffes every Sunday on the way to their grandparents house. Another person relayed the story of how her children would call out "Long-neck deer", in Chinese, every time they drove by.

Commission price $15,000.

Painting timeline: Three months. Special thanks to Angeli Crawford (who helped name the project Giraphics), fellow muralist Daniel Galvez for technical assistance, St. Leo's school for the use of their auditorium (where the drawings were created) as well as Ladyfingers bakery. Photography by Rick Mannshardt taken at the San Francisco Zoo.

Last Updated: June 02, 2003

Public Murals


Copyright 2005 Dan Fontes