Painted Pathways: A Walk Through Isla Vista

Isla Vista: this small college town nestled between the ocean and mountains, adorned with multiple murals, is also home to some impressive man-made spectacles. They brighten up the houses and encapsulate the creative and lively energy that its residents exude. Looking back to our previous post on artist Jane Gottlieb and her colourfully housed traditions, a short walk around IV will give you a taste for such similar artful possibilities without a trip into the Santa Ynez mountains.

The AD&A interns were lucky enough to be given a tour of some of the best examples of IV’s murals by artist and UCSB alum Gabriel Cardenas earlier this quarter. Below is a guide for a recreation of the tour, perfect for a contemplative walk to rid your minds of stress during finals week.

  1. The first mural on this tour begins at 6696 Del Playa. As the most recent result of student collaboration through the class INT 185UA-Urban Art, this mural was designed by UCSB student Janette Guiselle Sanchez as a tribute to diversity.


  1. Walk along DP to reach the next “Urban Art Workshop” mural site, located on 6582 Sabado Tarde where a painted sun blends with blue clouds to reflect purple hued trees. Designed by Gabriel Cardenas, the mural forms a colorful reminder of the sun’s incredible powers.


Also on Sabado Tarde a few paces right from the above mural is this underwater depiction of a turtle swimming in a kelp forest. The theme connects Isla Vista and its residents to the vastness of the nearby ocean. While peaceful in its beauty, the mural also commemorates the lives of those lost during the tragedies of 2001 and 2014. Victims rendered as six blue-gold fish.


  1. The third stop on this tour is the Sun Flower Mural site near Dominos which lies as a backdrop to the bus station. A sunny scene on the beach, the houses of Del Playa can be seen perched on top of the cliffs. Painted by an unknown artist, the scene has been here since 2012.


  1. Cutting through Anisqoyo Park, tucked away behind a grove of trees, the Chumash / Indigenous Mural Site can be found nearby IV Drip. Calling attention to the Native American  soil on which IV is built, this mural celebrates the rich history entrenched yet often hidden in this region of California.


  1. Now, walk towards the UCSB Anthropology department on the second floor of the HSSB for a selection of indoor murals created as a collaboration between the Arts and Anthropology departments. The work of seven student artists decorates the halls of the Anthropology department created with such themes in mind.IMG_4442
  2. Finally, head to the North Hall to end at Malcom X Hall Mural prints. Another example of a student- driven project. In 2012, the Black Student Union demanded that UCSB visibly acknowledge the contributions of Black students to the campus which became this outdoor exhibit in North Hall. With sources drawn from the Davidson Library, the exhibit shows how the building was temporarily renamed ‘Malcolm X Hall’.


Blending both the beautiful with an ample dose of educational, this tour highlights only a small proportion of the artwork around IV and the UCSB Campus. On this walk you will also encounter sightings of many other spectacular murals not mentioned on this post. So get outside and enjoy the rich vibrant Murals that IV has to offer for an inspiring measure of culture almost without setting a foot inside.

Brigitte Zheng

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