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Arts Beat: New mural highlights Oceano culture, community

Rachel Showalter/KCBX
A view of Pearson's new mural in Oceano.

The Central Coast section of Highway 1 is one of the most scenic drives in America. A new mural in south San Luis Obispo County is giving people another reason to stop and take a look around.

A local artist. A coalition of dedicated residents. A chunk of grant money. And Chacho’s Mexican Restaurant. These are the ingredients for Oscar Pearson’s mural in Oceano. It’s on the back wall of Chacho’s and it’s a vibrant one—dotted with the area’s natural scenery and full of Hispanic themes, to highlight the restaurant’s culture.

“The first thing that came to my mind was the tortillas there because that’s just what they’re known for here,” Pearson said.

About a third of Pearson’s mural is Chacho’s tortillas; he didn’t stop there. He added traditional dancers, indiginous patterns, agave plants and, to bring it all home—the Oceano dunes.

“It’s just gonna be all the beautiful patterns of the way the wind sweeps the sand,” Pearson said. “I don’t know if you’ve been out there—it has these really distinct patterns.”

Pearson grew up eating at Chacho’s and the restaurant is known as a staple in the community.

“Chacho’s is a part of Oceano history,” Pearson said. “I feel like it’s really good that this got to go on their building because they’ve been here so long and they’ve just been a part of this community right here. Everybody knows them.”

The Oceano Beach Community Association is a group dedicated to creating positive change for Oceano. The coalition received a $3000 dollar grant to fund Pearson’s mural. The project is meant to help slow traffic along Highway 1 and encourage people to spend time at local businesses.

OBCA president and co-founder Lucia Casalinuovo said Oceano is suffering economically and is often only seen as a place for off-roading at the dunes. The group hopes the mural will showcase everything the area has to offer.

“We want it to be an inspiration,” Casalinuovo said. “We want it to be an attraction. We want it to be a vision for what the future of Oceano could be. We want to bring money to Oceano and hopefully the mural will help us.”

Allene Villa of the OBCA also hopes the mural will spark creativity.

“People definitely are going to notice it and the colors are so vibrant. It just beautifies the area,” Villa said. “I think it’s also going to inspire future children that are growing up here in Oceano to be artists.”

Local resident Bobby Renteria stopped to admire the mural as he was passing by and said it’s doing its job.

“I’ve been here since ‘70 and I really appreciate seeing Oceano looking really nice. It really cleans up the area and gives a fresh clean sense that it’s a nice day,” Renteria said. “It’s beautiful. We’re going to start painting our shop over there- that body shop. It just inspires everybody to clean up Oceano. I love it.”

Renteria said he’s an aspiring artist himself and is happy to see Pearson working on his art. Pearson said he’s met lots of locals this way- with the mural bringing people together.

Cal Poly architecture professor Brent Freeby spoke with KCBX about the impact of murals on their surroundings. He said architects sometimes work together with artists to leave room for this kind of work. Freeby said capturing the history and culture of an area in this way can be important for a community.

“I would happily provide a big canvas, if you will, on the side of a building, knowing that it could be something that would connect people even further to the building,” Freeby said.

Freeby said buildings should always improve the area they are in. If murals or other forms of art are able to further that goal, Freeby said, as an architect, he would go out of his way to make that happen.

The public is encouraged to get out and see the mural at any time. A social-distant unveiling event of Pearson’s mural was scheduled for January 27 at Chacho’s, but canceled due to weather.

The KCBX Arts Beat is made possible by a grant from the Community Foundation of San Luis Obispo County.

Rachel Showalter first joined KCBX as an intern from Cal Poly in 2017. During her time in college, she anchored and reported for Mustang News at Cal Poly's radio station, KCPR. After graduating, she took her first job as a Producer at KSBY-TV. She returned to the KCBX team in October 2020, reporting daily for KCBX News until she moved to the Pacific Northwest in July of 2022. Rachel spends her off-days climbing rocks, cooking artichokes and fighting crosswords with friends.
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