The Word On Art

Mural Marvels: A Visual Journey through Hillcrest

By Patric Stillman

In the vibrant beating heart of San Diego’s Hillcrest neighborhood, where the neon pulse of creativity resonates with each step, more than a dozen walls come alive with a kaleidoscope of stories told through the language of murals. When one explores Mural Alley and the hidden gems scattered across the neighborhood, the brilliant minds and artistic hands behind these visual tales become apparent. Each stroke and hue not only enriches the aesthetic of the community but also serves as a testament to the profound impact of public art.

Maxx Moses, known as Pose 2, an international luminary in the world of street art and graffiti, emphasizes the profound influence of art on individuals. “The number one reason that art is important in our communities is that artist’s energy can change the way a person thinks, feels, and responds.”

“When you are able to manipulate those colors, shapes, and forms that create harmony, that create joy, that create connectivity, then you are a scientist and a magician. That’s super important.” 

These words capture the essence of the transformative nature of art, revealing its ability to transcend visual aesthetics and become something more personal to a community.

Sarah Stieber: Painting Dreams into Reality in Hillcrest

Sarah Stieber, a multifaceted artist, emerges as a prominent muralist, painter, jewelry designer, tape artist, and interior designer, collectively bringing her creativity to the dueling walls of Duplet’s apartment complex.  Stieber has embraced the medium with unwavering enthusiasm, recognizing the profound impact it can have on a community.

“It has been so incredible. I just got off a big art show, and the amount of people that came up to me at that event said, ‘Sarah, the mural you did in Hillcrest is part of my everyday life. I walk my dog; it’s part of the visual landscape of my life, and it brings me joy every time I walk by it.’ Hearing that kind of feedback is just so incredibly meaningful to me.”

Hillcrest’s most recent mural, Stieber’s “Painted Ladies” adorns the two apartment buildings, transforming it into a visual narrative of dreams and personal expression. In this mural, Stieber’s imaginative approach is evident, depicting women painting their own worlds, inviting residents to find a piece of themselves within the vibrant strokes. 

The mural not only graces the exterior but led to an invitation to design one of the units within the apartment complex. This level of integration speaks to Stieber’s belief that art has the power to create a sense of care and intentionality within a neighborhood, fostering a pride that resonates beyond the visual landscape.

Alex Fizix: Profound Imprint on Shaping Hillcrest’s Visual Identity 

Alex Fizix brings a distinctive touch to Hillcrest’s mural scene, fusing his background in animation with the raw authenticity of street art. A graduate in media arts and animation, Fizix recognizable, cartoony style injects a playful spirit into the streets of Hillcrest, and with multiple murals has placed an indelible mark on the neighborhood’s character. 

Each work tells a unique story. His contributions include the iconic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles pizza mural in Mural Alley, a nostalgic nod to cultural touchstones that resonate with viewers across generations. Two doors down, a black and white jazz-oriented speakeasy mural embraces the alley entrance to Cigar Cave.  Maybe most iconic is the loving drag queen on the side of Urban Mo’s Bar and Grill.

“Mo’s Drag Queen Mural was a fun job. It was nice doing something for the community for Hillcrest. I lived here since I moved out to San Diego in ’99. Though I moved to another neighborhood, I’m still see myself as a resident of Hillcrest. I like the people here. The neighborhood is very colorful.”

He reflected on the time that the mural was defaced. “Sometimes someone will throw paint on your street art. That’s the nature of murals. You can’t really get upset about it.”

“When it happened to the art at Mo’s, it was the time of COVID, so the owner had a great idea, so I put the mask on it.  Not too long ago, I went back and changed it back (to the original version).”

He also revealed that “There is a hidden alley of murals in Hillcrest too. I have some murals behind The Merrow in the alley.  It’s more of a street artist space.  I let people paint on my walls.  It’s always changing.”

Fizix’s commitment to his craft is rooted in a genuine passion for art and a desire to contribute to the vibrancy and spirit of Hillcrest. In a world where every mural is a canvas, Fizix is an artist who doesn’t just paint walls; he paints stories that come to life in the alleys and corners of Hillcrest.

Austin Gosswiller and Jack Stricker: A Dynamic Duo Painting San Diego’s Soul

“It’s not just about the paint on the walls; it’s about the people we meet, and the stories shared. Our mural is a testament to our passion for infusing color into the cityscape. It’s not just about the brushstrokes; it’s about creating a more colorful and connected city, one mural at a time,” said muralist Austin Gosswiller.

Having grown up in the same neighborhood, Gosswiller and artist Jack Stricker started collaborating on street art a year ago. Their artistic partnership has blossomed into vibrant murals across San Diego. Their “Hillcrest Tribute” mural at the California Bank and Trust intricately weaves together iconic landmarks, a visual symphony paying homage to the community they call home. From the Hillcrest sign to the Coronado Bridge, each element is carefully crafted to celebrate the spirit of San Diego. 

“Hillcrest was very much a part of my childhood. It was cool to be a part of the community. Doing a mural in this area is pretty cool. I think it’s a pretty positive mural. It showcases that positive vibe that Hillcrest exudes?”

Jack added “It definitely has that Hillcrest pop to it. All the colors in the rainbow right here.”

Maxx Moses: Concrete Alchemy Empowering Shared Love

Maxx Moses’ two-story mural, “Son, Mommy Loves You,” stands tall in Mural Alley, a testament to the deep connections that art can forge. 

“This piece took place in stages. First, I actually did the graffiti piece when I was renting a studio at The Studio Door. I just wanted to paint one day. I just went here and painted. I just rocked out.”

Moses shares that the mural evolved from personal experiences and connections, “So, at the time, you know, I was really just having these deep connections with my mom who passed away, and she’s always like communicating with me from the other side. At the same time, you know, I have a younger son, and the relationship between him and his mother is so tight. I just wanted to do this artwork that was just showing the connection between the mom and her son. That’s why this piece is called ‘Son Mommy Loves You.’ As the process of the mural took place, I invited a lot of mothers and their sons to come by in the making of the mural and just have a conversation about their connection with their sons. So yeah, it’s a beautiful experience.”

Art’s Enduring Impact on Hillcrest

As we traverse the vibrant streets of Hillcrest, the murals we encounter are more than static images adorning walls—they are living testaments to the spirit of this community. The artists behind these murals are not mere creators but storytellers, painting narratives that resonate with the daily lives of those who call Hillcrest home.

The evolution of graffiti into murals, the fusion of animation with street art, and the collaborative endeavors of street artists all converge to create a visual tapestry that defines Hillcrest. Through their artistic expressions, the artists mentioned along with Carley Ealey, Jason and Frieda Gould, Cody Griffith, Jet Martinez, Glow aka Gloria Muriel, Regan Russell, CJ Troxwell, Skye Walker and Reeves + Jetter have not only adorned the walls but have illuminated the very soul of Hillcrest.

In the words of Sarah Stieber, the impact of murals extends beyond the visual landscape; it seeps into the collective consciousness of the community. Hillcrest’s murals are not static images but living entities, evolving with the community they adorn. They serve as mirrors reflecting the past, present, and aspirations of a community that finds solace, inspiration, and unity in the strokes of artistic expression. 

Next time you find yourself with time on your hands, seek out these amazing hidden gems.  We are incredible fortunate to have such creative masters putting the Fabulous into the Hillcrest neighborhood for all to enjoy. May the murals of Hillcrest be a beacon of creativity for generations to come.

Discover Hillcrest Murals: A Kaleidoscope of Stories and Colors

Immerse yourself in the vibrant tapestry of Hillcrest’s street art scene by taking a self-guided tour or watch a video highlighting the neighborhood’s public art with local muralists sharing the inspirations behind their captivating murals. HERE