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Alameda

Program brings color, art to Alameda Corridor

Lakewood-area artist will paint first mural at Village Roaster

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Lakewood artist Ratha Sok discovered graffiti when he was in middle and high school. It may not have seemed like there was much of a future in that, but as he grew older, he discovered a more positive route for his artistic impulses — making murals.

Now, thanks to a new program launched by the Alameda Corridor Business Improvement District, Sok is getting a canvas he would have probably never had as a teenager — a wall at the The Village Roaster coffee shop, 9255 W. Alameda Ave.

“At the time, I was using graffiti to express my experiences,” he said. “Now, I’m more interested in the message I’m sharing with the community I’m creating for.”

The Village Roaster mural is the first of what organizers hope will be a series of murals along Alameda Avenue, one of the city’s busiest thoroughfares. At least partly inspired by similar mural projects along West Colfax, Tom Quinn, executive director of the business improvement district and Alameda Gateway Community Association, said the goal is to use arts to unite the area.

“There are some great, great places on Alameda, and we want to highlight this through public art,” he said. “We don’t want to be exactly like Colfax. We want to create something that is specific to our corridor.”

The business improvement district is working on lining up several locations and seeking business participants by providing a space for a unique mural to be painted.

The Village Roaster, owned by Kathleen and Jim Curtis, has been a mainstay of the community for more than 35 years. Both Kathleen and Jim have made community involvement a key feature of their business model, and since she is also chair of the district, it wasn’t difficult for Kathleen to offer up the large north-facing wall of the shop.

“Garrison is a major travel route, so we thought this would be a good place to put the mural,” she said of the street. “The wall will be a great focal point and a way to start a conversation in the community.”

While the final design for Sok’s mural hasn’t yet been finalized, he has been giving a lot of thought to potential designs and is considering one based on nature. What he ultimately decides on will include input from Curtis and the business improvement district, but he knows it has to speak to the community.

“I like to do a lot of research on a community when I’m creating a piece of public art. Even though I’ve spent most of my life in the Lakewood area, I still want to get this right,” he said. “It’s an honor for me to be the first mural in this program, and I want to bring color to my showcase for the community.”

More mural locations will be announced in coming months, and Sok hopes to start his mural in May. Quinn said they’re searching for high traffic areas that will showcase the art and draw visitors to see what the corridor has to offer.

“We want to build a world-class corridor, and art is a big part of that,” Quinn said. “It helps inspire work in a destination where people want to spend their time.”

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