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May 11, 2010 > Dedication of Gateway Mural

Dedication of Gateway Mural

By Simon Wong
Photos By Simon Wong

Hayward Mayor Mike Sweeney dedicated a plaque on May 1 commemorating the completion of the Hayward Gateway Mural, the city's largest public art project, by award-winning artist Andrew Kong Knight. The mural appears on the side of the Furniture Express building at 22401 Foothill Boulevard (at Maple Court) and is clearly visible heading into Downtown Hayward from the north. The art work is part of the City Gateway Project.

Many are surprised to learn the eye-catching composite depicts scenes found in Hayward, today and not of yesteryear. The city's shoreline, views of the Bay, trails, the large oak, other flora and fauna were found and photographed by the artist, his children and assistants as they hiked the city's surrounds as part of their research.

Last June, Council authorized a professional services agreement for the work. A year in the planning, painting took eight months and completed in February/March 2010. Knight, a full-time art teacher at Hayward High School, worked on the project after school, at weekends and during holidays.

"On seeing the 3,500 sq. ft. wall, a conceptual design sprang immediately to mind but it went through many variations and refinements before I was satisfied. We produced the final sketch a few months later, on completing our research," explained Knight.

"I was inspired by the hills, trails, marshland and view of the Bay from the Hayward shoreline. For me, these are the most beautiful aspects of the City of Hayward.

"My girlfriend Alani inspired me to work harder on my palette choices. She is responsible for richer colors than I use normally and for the more natural hues than I have used previously. The project was overwhelming and Alani, my friends and family kept me sane. This mural is also an expression of our love for each other. This is why I proposed to Alani at the dedication," he added.

Knight was assisted by artists Alani Rose, high-school friend Chris Wyers and Karla Hargrave and volunteers Scott Young, Mali Benvenutti, Tammy Howard-Huerta, Jenna and Drew Knight (daughter and son), Diana Mitchell and Ryan Reynolds. The mural is dedicated to Virginia MacKenzie and the late Alwine Fenton.

In the early stages, five to 10 volunteers helped prime and lay down the base colors. Rose assisted two days each week and Wyers worked approximately once a week on the mural.

The artists used water-based acrylics, which are permanent on drying, with a light-fastness of one which means the colors will remain vibrant for many years. The mural has four layers of UV varnish which will help prevent fading, weathering and facilitate cleaning.

Knight is delighted with the results. His favorite part of the mural is the grassy area where the marshland meets the hills. It features some of his most rigorous brushwork and has the most sophisticated color improvisations he has ever attempted.

The project was not without its setbacks. A wasp nest, water permeating the wall into the retail store's basement, low winter temperatures and the near-demolition of the scaffolding by a truck proved to be challenges.

Many students have benefitted from Knight's talent and teaching over the past 15 years but he will not have a job next semester because of Hayward Unified School District's budget cuts. He is the only art teacher at Hayward High School.

"Being chosen to create an artwork that would greet people to my hometown was a dream come true, a great honor and something I'll never forget. 'Thank you' to everyone involved. I'm also grateful to Neighborhood Partnership Manager Stacey Sorenson for making this immense project possible and for having faith in me to undertake it," concluded Knight who would like to produce another mural for downtown Hayward and is working on some designs.

The Hayward High Band, The Cires, Musica-Humana Blues, Angry Tired Teachers and other groups and performers provided live entertainment and local business vendors provided food and refreshments and distributed information to attendees during the after-dedication party.

For more information about the City of Hayward Mural Program, contact Stacey Sorensen, City of Hayward Neighborhood Partnership Manager on (510) 583-4233 or stacey.sorensen@hayward-ca.gov.

For more information about Andrew Kong Knight, Muralist, call (925) 413-1975 or visit www.andrewkongknight.com

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