According to the Hayward Police Department, 35% of reported crimes have been from vandalism cases. Within these cases, many in the city of Hayward have been simply from “tagging” around local businesses and architecture. Graffiti is writing or drawings that have been scratched, painted or sprayed illicitly on a wall, or other surfaces in a public place, but it is also an art form.
The ongoing community effects include declining property values and neighborhoods suffering increased rates of other types of crime as well gang violence.
The Hayward Mural Program has been behind the call-to-action prevention of vandalism related to gang violence around town. In changing the appearance of the city of Hayward, and decreasing the escalating “tagging” in Hayward, the City Council’s top priority has been a pro-active and appealing approach.
The Mural Art Program extends to graffiti-prone commercial buildings, schools, utility boxes, fire hydrants, benches, underpasses, and book drops.
PG&E and Union Pacific Railroad, along with the Hayward Unified School District and homeowners associations, have gotten involved with the Hayward Mural Program.
Program administrators estimate that at least a thousand volunteers throughout the Bay Area have been associated with this program. The program’s efforts have cultivated an increase in job creation, civic pride, cultural enrichment and sense of community identity through inspirational artwork.
One of the artists in the program, Jean Bidwell, has been painting murals since high school and in 2009 began working with the Hayward Mural Program. Skilled with surface prep and restoration, painting, wood carving, calligraphy and many more art forms, Jean’s masterpieces include notable murals around schools, utility boxes and community wall structures.
Jean Bidwell described the program as, “something, unlike anything I have ever experienced. It’s a strong, albeit silent, impact and that’s the beauty of it… to draw people together… whether it’s curiosity or a passion for all things creative.”
As an artist captivated with the history of the place, and someone who paints in the realist style, she was presented with the distinction of an Alameda County Arts Leadership Award in 2013. Her designs have been those of a “historical nature,” and creations of “educational memorials” shared around the community.
By pausing a moment in time and creating a piece of art, the muralist Jean Bidwell has been able to “tell the story without words, hence her portrayal as a “visual scribe: a keeper of place.”
Jean Bidwell’s recent projects have been in the surrounding community including Downtown Hayward’s Utility Boxes on A Street, Jackson Street’s Southern Retaining Wall Mural west of Watkins Avenue toward the BART tracks and Hayward Main Library Book Drop Boxes on C Street and Watkins Street.