Bay Area Mural Program blesses Oakland with Stephen Curry mural
BAMP executive director Andre Jones spoke with DNHQ for an exclusive interview on his artistic process and his appreciation for what Curry means to Oakland.
The next time you’re over at the stylish gathering spot known as the Hive on the 2300 Broadway block of Uptown Oakland, do yourself a favor and and peer out across the street at the YMCA. There you will witness the beautiful homage to Stephen Curry’s 3-point dominance and his impact on Oakland’s youth.
The mural gives praise to Curry for becoming the all-time three-point king with a classic pose. It also includes a shout out to Marcus Books in Oakland, which PBS referred to as “hallowed ground” in part because of its status as the oldest black owned bookstore in the nation.
This massive piece shows the taunting, joy-weaponizing swagger of the greatest shooter of all time juxtaposed with the warm kindness he has showed to the city of Oakland through his community work.
I sat down with Andre Jones, the founder of the Bay Area Mural Program team that created this stunning piece, to find out more about the process behind this crowning artistic achievement.
Heads up: they will be hosting their first annual black-tie fundraiser, The Bay Area Mural Program’s (BAMP) Oakland Artist Gala, on March 18th from 7PM to 10PM. The Gala will take place at Oakstop's California Ballroom in Oakland.
Who is the man and the mind behind the mural?
I'm Andre Jones a.k.a. Natty Rebel as my street artist name. I got started in public arts almost two decades ago, so I've been doing this for like over 20 years.
I've always known what I wanted to be. Growing up as a left-handed military brat traveling around, I was always just drawing anytime I was put on punishment. You really couldn't punish me because as long as I had a pencil in my hand or my finger in the sand…I would just escape and travel to different various places.
It's like I've been my own therapist. I've been able to like really meditate whenever I was upset or depressed or down… I could really just kind of like travel. I was drawing pictures of Africa before I'd even stepped foot in Africa.
So it kind of helped me just time travel to places or even kind of foresee that I wanted to go there. I’d guess writers get this as well too when you're writing. It's just being able to be present and also put yourself into the future. You can paint yourself into your own reality.
Where did you grow up?
Originally? Alexandria, Virginia. My parents still live there. It's right outside of DC, about 10, 15 minutes out of DC.
I had goals of being a professional soccer player. So I traveled around to England, played semi-pro down in Cocoa Beach, Florida. I also lived in New York, worked for the Philadelphia mural arts program. I’d like to say I impacted plenty of communities in New York, Philadelphia, and DC.
Eventually I wanted to create something that was bigger than just myself. I officially moved to California in 2007 and did public art here as “Natty Rebel”.
That’s how I first came to hear about you under that name. Natty Rebel art is everywhere in Oakland.
I wanted to be known for more than just street art. The name…the alias Natty Rebel, it kind of put me in a certain box, you know? I'll tell you a funny story. The first project I did with our nonprofit Bay Area Mural Program, I applied for the project with Whole Foods as Natty Rebel.
And they were like, “we love your art, but we just don't know how ‘Natty Rebel’ and Whole Foods is going to sound to our, uh, board of directors and our stakeholders.”
I responded “oh, well, I got a nonprofit organization called the Bay Area Mural Program.” Now they’re like “we love it, we’ll be there next week!”.
That’s hilarious! Okay so how did BAMP come together?
I'm the founder and also executive director. I put together an arts festival/competition and we called it the Battle of the Canvas. In hindsight, I didn't realize it was going to be the team that I was putting together. We had about 23 artists that came out in Oakland from the community.
Rachel Wolfe happened to win the competition. Zoe Boston came in third place and pretty much now Rachel is our creative director. And Zoe helped work on the Steph Curry mural. She’s an amazing dope artist and a dope person. So I'd say about eight of our 23 artists that are on our BAMP team were in that art competition.
I really felt with my experience and with the team of amazing artists that I work with, we could open up a few doors. Including the one that got us on the Curry mural project.
These big murals are different. You gotta learn how to like painting while you’re swaying back and forth, and you can't be afraid of heights, while keeping track of your proportioning. That's larger than life, you know, so it's a lot of different things that go into creating murals.
I’m glad you brought that fear of heights thing up, because I was checking out the progress when your team was creating the mural and y’all looked like dots up there in the sky.
Literally. I couldn't even look at some of the video footage halfway through. It's intimidating when you're inside of your person and you have an awareness of your size feel like everything’s comfortable.
But when you're looking at yourself in the whole big scheme of things, the whole cityscape behind you, and you're just this little dot? You're just like, whoa, man, I'm really insignificant. And I don’t want to be a little dot that hits the ground.
How big is the scale of this mural?
So, uh, we don't have the actual footage, but we know nine stories. So if a story is between like 12 and 15 feet, we're looking at like nine or ten times fifteen, so just shy of 150 feet.
What was the inspiration for the Curry mural? It looks you drew inspiration from his 4-point play celebration against the Raptors in spring of 2020?
Oh, goodness. See, for all the sport fans that really know like yeah, that's where we took the photo for a matter of fact. We felt that it was a celebration of winning the three point title. So why not do something that really just highlights him doing a silent celebration, you know?
At first we were just kind of playing with the idea of him just shooting a three. And it was like… no, we need something more than just a poster, or billboard, or a commercial. We can paint commercials, but that's not really aligned with our mission. So let's do it something that's more.
That’s where the work we do for BAMP tied right into the image of him reading to children. We used this photo that is actually a photo from his Instagram reading. I loved the idea of him reading to the children when they told me that this was a cross promotion with the Marcus Book Store and being able to tie Marcus Books into the whole scheme of things.
Curry had mentioned that he's been shopping and patronizing Marcus Books for a long time. If there is anybody that he wanted to help out, it was Marcus.
They’re the the oldest longstanding black owned bookstore in the nation. I didn't know that! I was ashamed that here in 2022 was my first time even stepping foot inside of Marcus Books because Rakuten and all of these folks felt that it was important to do this project here in Oakland, as opposed to San Francisco, because of the impact this community has had on the Warriors and vice versa.
How long did it take you to do this?
Hm. So if we're talking about from phone call to packing up the paints, I would say it took us about two months to find a building, come up with a design, go back and forth with the design team, the Warriors, Rakuten, and get approvals for what jersey was going to be worn.
Because if you notice, like, you know, we couldn't put a San Francisco jersey in that mural, because that would just totally rough people, you know? So all of these things had to be thought about.
What do you hope people get from the piece?
I wish that everybody who walks by just gets a little smile or a smirk…whether it's the color scheme or whether they catch it at that happy hour when the sky color is meshed with the murals. Yeah… that's all intentional.
We want people to ultimately appreciate it, and we made sure to make him reading to the children even bigger than his 3PT celebration. For even as much as basketball is great for giving him his platform, it’s really all about what he does for the community, and what we do for the community, and what everybody does for their community.
It's what makes community, right? So all of us are superheroes. We all play a role in this.
And how do you feel this piece might change how people perceive you?
So I’m hoping that people are perceiving me in a different light. Like I said, it's that double-edged sword because as the executive director of BAMP, I'm also still an artist.
Initially, I was really just like hmmm… how do I make black culture just fun and cool. Like a part of our reality where it's like, you know, Marcus Garvey and these ones are like “be proud to be black”. How did they use their psychology to really just put that into our everyday with black fist bumps and being proud of our Afros?
And now we're just like, “oh yeah that's just black.” There was a time where we weren't proud of that and denied that. So how do I explain that with the next generation or even some of my peers through art.
So when people tell me like, “yeah, that's a part of my reality”, I'm like, oh crap. When I first started doing it, I wanted it to be a part of my reality, you know? Because it seemed like you either had to be a basketball player or a dope dealer. Nah, there's other options. I just want to be an artist… being a black artist.
It's funny, just in the last two or three years, especially during the pandemic, people have really given me my flowers because now cultural art is relevant. Protest art is relevant.
So it's like, “oh, let's look at some of the people who've been doing protest and cultural art. Oh my gosh, look.” And so now I feel like I've got my flowers as an artist and I'm like, thank you!
But I've leveled up now. I'm a businessman. So now I would like for people to respect me not only as just a businessman and the founder and the executive director of a program. And like Steph Curry and other inspirations, I’m focused on making sure that when you have something that's magical and a gift to the community you get people that can support and help keep that going.
To learn more about Andre Jones and the Bay Area Mural Program, follow them on Instagram @nattyrebelart and @bayareamuralpro.