Beautify connects local groups with artists to paint inspiring murals
Eric Camarena wanted to remake neglected walls in his home city. He found mural company Beautify could connect him with the talent to turn bare walls into inspiring works of art.
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Mural outside Del Rey Elementary School in Victorville, CA, painted by Sara Sandoval
Anyone who wants to beautify the community where they live can do it. Eric Camarena, who grew up in the desert city of Victorville an hour northeast of Los Angeles, is proving it, using Beautify’s platform to turn a modest budget into walls that inspire locals and welcome visitors.
“Ever since I was a kid, I always loved murals,” Eric says. “My parents would take me to L.A. and I would see the murals in the underpasses. I’ve always had an appreciation for artwork on a grand scale.”
Today, Eric is a public information officer for Victorville’s school district. He’s lived elsewhere, but came back to Victorville as his home. “There’s a lot of benefits to living up here,” he says. “You can have a house and an acre of land.” Yet he also sees that economic changes have shuttered most of the businesses that lined the city’s downtown strip. The boom periods of recent decades have passed by the city’s 100,000-plus residents, whom he says too often feel they have to leave Victorville to get ahead.
“When I grew up there was a lot of pride in the desert,” he says. “There seems to be less of it nowadays. A lot of people are struggling.”
Murals as first impressions
As a public communications professional, Eric is well aware that most visitors to Victorville don’t see the homes, the hospital and schools, or the city’s largest employer—the Southern California Logistics Airport, which serves airlines and freight companies behind the scenes rather than ferrying passengers.
Instead, tourists and travelers who pull off Interstate 15 between L.A. and Vegas first see the mostly abandoned business strip of Old Town Victorville. While various agencies work to rebuild and revitalize the area, Eric had an idea for an immediate first upgrade. “There’s a group working with the city, focused on the hardcore fundamental aspects of building and developing an area,” he says. “I just thought, while you work on that, let’s paint some murals and add some color.”
Eric was working with a local development group who had a grant which they hadn’t fully budgeted yet. We had met a year earlier when I was painting a mural nearby sponsored by CBS and Sit ‘n Sleep. Eric is a passionate, warm-hearted guy looking to create a better community, and a sense of well-being for Victorville. He understands the power of art and the positive impact it creates, culturally, and economically. He called me to ask how Beautify could help him transform more of the prominent walls around town.
This is the kind of project for which we conceived Beautify. Our platform makes it easy for city officials and local organizers to find artists, review proposed art, and track schedules and payments in one place, instead of chasing down artists and handling every one separately by email or phone.
I had the honor of painting the first mural that greets those who pull over for gas off the freeway. The once blank wall next door is now a celebration of the desert sunset and the area’s famous Joshua trees—a visual welcome to Victorville. commissioned by the Victorville Chamber of Commerce and Rose Foundation.
An online marketplace for urban beautification
Like many, Eric wanted to bring life and inspiration to what would otherwise be bland walls facing his community, but didn’t know where to start. Who do you contact, and how? How do you find the right artist? What’s this going to cost? Can we trust that the work will get done as promised?
That’s why I founded Beautify as a technology platform for urban beautification... If you want to buy something hard to find, Amazon and eBay are likely to have it available from a seller. You trust that it will show up as promised, and any problems will be resolved. (On the other side, sellers trust that they’ll be paid, and likewise have a process for resolving any problems with buyers.) A platform lets people connect, and removes uncertainty and worries.
Beautify’s platform lets anyone who wants to beautify a wall, a line of traffic barriers, or any other urban canvas explore artists and solicit bids. We automate the project management and broker payments (we’re insured.) At the same time, we’re available to guide and advise customers and artists based on our involvement with 10,000 murals in more than 100 cities.
Through Beautify, Eric connected with L.A. artist Sara Sandoval, who designed and painted the “Dream” mural that spans the lawn outside Del Rey Elementary School. Sara’s work speaks for itself: A bright, colorful message of inspiration, framed by a pair of young faces in whom any of the students can see themselves, and anyone driving past the school can see a future for its students.
The Victorville Chamber of Commerce, Victorville Kiwanis Club, and the Rose Foundation provided funding, knowing that Beautify would connect Eric (who admittedly did a lot of the coordinating on his own) with the best artists, and would ensure that the murals would be executed as promised.
Eric, I learned, had approached local groups for a few years to muralize walls around Victorville. It wasn’t seen as a bad idea, but the steps between “let’s paint some murals” and Sara’s mural transforming a schoolyard were unknown and hard to figure out. Success was uncertain. Beautify is designed to guide others through that process and guarantee it will succeed.
Unlike our brand clients who can literally measure the impact of a mural in consumer response and dollars, it’s harder to put numbers of the outcome of Eric’s work with Beautify in Victorville. But he says that while onsite during the painting process, it was clear the new murals were already having an effect on his home community: “Random people would pull up while passing by or getting gas, and literally say, ‘Thank you.’”
Evan Meyer is a co-founder and the CEO of Beautify.