Margie M. Palmer | SDUN Reporter
The North Park business district has a new neighbor. It is not a new storefront, nor is it a new resident. Painted alongside the west-facing wall of Wang’s North Park restaurant is a 50-foot cartoon dinosaur.
Wang’s North Park co-owner Tom Eads said he and his partners were initially reluctant to have the mural painted on the side of their restaurant.
“The conversation first came about when Pacific Magazine approached us saying they were putting together their annual art issue,” Eads said. “They told us they found an artist to do some street art, which would be featured on the cover, and asked if we’d consider letting him use our wall.”
The concern for the restaurant owners was not having any input on what would be painted, Eads said, and at first they said no.
Their interest was piqued, however, when they learned street artist Mark Paul Deren was involved. Deren, also known as Madsteez, has painted murals for Nike, including the Nike-commissioned FIFA World Cup mural in Hollywood, Calif, among others.
“We went to his website and thought his work was really great,” Eads said.
Once they altered their perspective, he said, their minds began to change.
“We realized we’re in an art district where there already is a lot of street art,” Eads said. “It then became clear that this shouldn’t be about Wang’s, but about the type of positive impact the art could have on the neighborhood. That’s when we changed our mind[s].”
The artist said the project moved quickly once he got the green light.
“I think Pacific Magazine connected me with the owners on March eighth or ninth and I began painting on the 12th,” Deren said. “I didn’t even meet the guys until the 13th. There was no real dialogue about the project beforehand, which was cool for me.”
Eads said, however, Pacific Magazine’s editor faxed a rendering of what the mural would look like before the painting started.
“I was thrilled; absolutely blown away,” he said.
Deren said the mural took five days and 10 gallons of paint to complete.
“It was completely self-financed,” he said, adding that half the fun of the project came in knowing that the bright pink dinosaur “would brighten people’s day. They just gave me the wall.”
District Three Councilmember Todd Gloria, whose district includes North Park, said that community art adds life to a neighborhood.
“Public art greatly influences community character and adds life to District Three’s neighborhoods,” Gloria said. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder so not every piece of art will be uniformly loved and appreciated, but each brings an opportunity for discussion and draws attention to the district.”
Eads said the feedback thus far has been positive.
“We’ve had a lot of people, young and old, tell us how much they like it… We think this is the coolest and most amazing piece of artwork,” he said. “It’s just really impressive. We hope that this is one of those things that will draw people to North Park so they can see what an amazing neighborhood it is.”