As a response to the social restrictions put in place in connection with the pandemic in 2020, the City of Escondido narrowed Grand Avenue to two traffic lanes in August 2020 and made the former parking lane available to businesses. This was accomplished by placing almost 100 gray, dull looking concrete barriers (K-rails) to mark the boundary to the new parking lane.
This presented a unique challenge to local artists. After the first two barriers in front of the Escondido Art Association’s (EAA) Artists Gallery located at 121 W. Grand Avenue were painted, business owners along Grand Avenue asked if their barriers could be decorated as well. Passers-by asked if they could participate, and the Beautify Escondido (BE) Movement, under the umbrella of the Escondido Art Association (EAA), was created and took off.
At the time, it was uncertain how long the barriers would be in place, but it did not deter the volunteers from completing their mission of changing the look of Grand Avenue, Escondido.
The goal of the Beautify Escondido (BE) Movement was to make a positive difference in a difficult time by uniting and infusing energy and optimism into our city during the COVID pandemic. Interested parties were given a chance to express their artistic talents by serving the community, keeping our city alive, supporting our businesses and setting a goal to attract and capture the eye of visitors.
According to the Escondido Art Association, “The City of Escondido was incredibly supportive of the project and city employees provided much assistance. Escondido Rotary, Escondido Shines, the Escondido Downtown Business Association, the Chamber of Commerce, MAGEC, Mandala Creations, businesses on Grand Avenue and, all of the volunteer artists united in making the BE Barrier Painting Project a success.”
Completion of the BE barrier decoration project was celebrated in connection with The Second Saturday Art Walk on November 14, 2020. Two unpainted barriers located in front of 150 West Grand Avenue were reserved for a special occasion.
Persons from supporting and donating organizations, the Mayor of Escondido, Paul McNamara, along with assisting city employees and special guests were invited to add “words of wisdom”, special wishes, signatures, decorations of their choice to the unpainted barriers. This event completed the decorating of the barriers with the credo: “The Escondido Coloring Book of Hope.”
A profound expression was used by one city employee, Joanne Axelrod, to express her emotions: “Turning a safety necessity into a canvas for art and beauty is truly a positive silver lining of this pandemic.”
The BE barrier painting project turned out to be an inspiration for further artistic efforts to enhance the downtown Escondido cityscape. The task of beautifying dumpsters has recently been tackled and several future art projects are on the horizon. This was just the awakening of a rousing movement, the brainchild of Escondido Art Association’s Ambassador Suzanne Nicolaisen, to beautify the City of Escondido.
On the website of The City of Escondido is posted a Self-Guided tour of the BE barrier painting project: tiny.cc/beescondido.