Project: Zebra Murals aka Animural - 1983 / 2016
Medium: Oils on Concrete
Dimensions: 18' x 150' Each animal is between 4' / 13' wide by 12' / 14' tall
Location: Broadway at 34th Street, near Mosswood Park, Oakland
Artist Dan Fontes' Iconic Freeway Zebra Mural Gets New Life
By TAMMERLIN DRUMMOND | firstname.lastname@example.org
July 6, 2016 at 7:58 am
OAKLAND — Ronald Reagan was president. More than 40 musicians, including Michael Jackson and Bruce Springsteen recorded “We are the World,” an album that raised millions of dollars for famine relief in Africa. A gallon of gas cost $1.09.
A lot has changed since 1985. But one thing that has endured are the zebra murals painted by a then-young, unknown artist named Dan Fontes beneath a freeway overpass in downtown Oakland. Over the course of three decades, the larger-than-life figures that have delighted two generations have taken a serious beating. Sun, rain and graffiti taggers have marred the original artwork of five zebras grazing in various poses.
So in June, Fontes, now a celebrated muralist whose work adorns public walls all over the East Bay, returned to one of his earliest public art pieces to restore the zebras to their former splendor. He has launched a GoFundMe site to help cover the cost of the restoration. So far, he’s raised $9,190 toward his $25,000 goal. The funds will go toward oil paint and other supplies, as well as stipends for Fontes and his assistants.
“I’m 57, so if I don’t do it now, I’m not going to do it,” Fontes said. “Climbing that scaffold is not something you want to do when you hit your 60s and 70s.”
On a recent afternoon, Fontes stood perched atop the tall metal scaffold beneath the Highway 580 overpass on Broadway, paintbrush in hand. He worked on a 14-foot zebra as a continuous, deafening rush of traffic went by.
Fontes said the restoration process is much more involved than the initial design and painting.
“This is one of the reasons I haven’t been back,” he said. “I knew it was going to be a monster to do.”
First step, the wall has to be cleaned because paint doesn’t adhere well to oil or grease. Then, he must scrape off all of the chips. Some of the animals are so damaged, they are missing entire chunks.