Since 2012, Beautify Earth has painted over 30 murals on Lincoln Boulevard alone.

A part of the city once considered dreary, drab and occasionally dangerous, peppered with auto repair shops and liquor stores, has since blossomed into cute boutiques, restaurants and coffee shops, and this change is ongoing. This transformation is in part due to the new aesthetics provided by Beautify Earth.

A mural can change a city in many ways…

It increases magnetism to a location, noticeability of the business, decreases costs of repainting and vandalism, and has even caused up to 50% bumps in some annual business revenues. One business, in particular, with a annual revenue of $100K, spent $1,000 on a mural, and increased their annual revenue the following year to $120K, which was a 1,900% return on investment (ROI). That’s a lot of numbers for a little bit of paint…

Santa Monica and Beautify Earth

Santa Monica has partnered with Beautify Earth, leading the way in changing vandalistic writers who “fly by night” into public muralists who embrace community and civic responsibility. Santa Monica is pioneering this journey, and reformatting safe public space that does not compromise artistic identity for advertising value. Case in point, The City of Santa Monica sponsors Beautify Earth to paint a series of murals along Colorado Blvd, which were strategically placed to be in view of the new metro-line that goes from DTLA to the beach.

As Los Angelinos, and the many tourists whom frequent the city, hop on the rail to head to the Pacific Ocean, they also participate in a visual tour of Santa Monica’s artistic identity. It’s happened to all of us before, you are having a particular kind of day (perhaps dreary), or feeling stuck in your own head, and you chance upon a piece of public art that communicates to you in an unexpected way. This kind gift of non-verbal expression in combination with the City’s friendly disposition toward street performers and musicians (just drop by their office on a weekday and pick up an application) is forming an immersive and dynamic type of urban development. Santa Monica, on the wings of organizations like Beautify Earth, is becoming both wealthy and well cultured.

Broken Windows Theory

On an academic level, well-done public art can be perceived as having the ancillary effect of what is referred to by sociologists as the Broken Windows Theory, which gets its name from the idea that if there is a building with broken windows, it is more likely that someone will break some more, or if you see litter on the ground, others will be more likely to litter in the same location. Broadly speaking, urban areas in disregard, tend to dissuade public identity and increase private isolation, which leads to crime, whereas urban areas that are prevented from falling into neglect will tend to engender more positive social contracts (that is public agreements with regard to respectful forms of social behavior), which leads to safer surroundings.

From blight to bright, Beautify Earth is inspiring art, creativity and commerce. According to an article on Santa Monica Next the Lincoln Boulevard Task Force has praised Beautify for adding, “visual excitement to the street.” Just last May the Santa Monica Daily Press presented Beautify Earth’s Ruben Rojas with the Most Loved Mural award for 2016, for his “Anything Can Happen Mural” located at 2522 Main Street.

Not only local to California, since its inception, Beautify Earth has influenced thousands of walls in hundreds of cities across dozens of countries. After hurricane Sandy, BE, went to help beautify the streets of Rockaway Beach, a feat which inspired a theme of revitalization, and which garnered BE the respect and admiration of Kirsten Gillibrand, a United States Senator. Perhaps other cities in the USA and abroad, will take a page out of the The City of Santa Monica, and we’ll discover an urban world as colorful as our natural one.

Special thanks to Joseph Voelbel for writing this post. 

Joseph Voelbel is an author living in Los Angeles. He received his BA from NYU with concentrations in English and Dramatic Writing and his Master’s degree in Communications from USC. For more info: josephvoelbel.com.