Bringing Optimism to our Cities: One Color at a Time

Over the last several weeks, a lot has changed in our daily lives. We’ve gotten more familiar with our own four walls than we may have ever thought possible (seriously, has that rug always been that color?!), and when we do venture out, things look pretty different. In many places, our neighborhoods are empty and plywood covers the doors and windows of our favorite local bars, restaurants, and shops. But amongst all the uncertainty that COVID-19 brings, our optimism is one thing that continues to propel us forward.

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When our Lizard Lounge store in Portland, OR, had to shut its doors due to the pandemic, it was boarded up and no longer gave off those feel-good Toad vibes that we know and love. So when designers from architecture and design firm Gensler reached out to us about sprucing it up, we couldn’t have been more excited. To brighten the canvas around our cities, these designers have volunteered their time to partner with small business owners to create vibrant and inspiring murals that reflect the distinct personalty of each business – and the promise of better times to come.

Color Speaks — a research project spearheaded by Gensler’s Seattle office — was initially created to study how color can bring hope and optimism to the future of our cities, and how applications of color in the urban environment affect our behavior and collective well-being (and if we weren’t already excited enough, this research is right up our alley — this spring, we too drew inspiration from the psychology of color).

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These designers are using this initiative to encourage others to join them in revitalizing storefronts and transforming abandoned streets into beautiful splashes of uplifting colors and positive messages of resilience and hope. To date, the Gensler Portland team has painted murals at four locations around the city, and conversations are underway with even more business owners. Since initiating this project, more Gensler offices around the nation are joining in to beautify their own cities. And until Lizard Lounge reopens, passersby get to experience some seriously good vibes from the outside.

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Feeling inspired? Here’s how you can get involved. The team has created a free tool kit (containing a list of necessary supplies, “paint-by-number” guide, and helpful tips) that walks even non-artists through the process of painting their own murals. Just contact the team through the Color Speaks (@colorspeaks_) Instagram page to get one.

 

 

Robolights, Palm Springs

Palm Springs is a kaleidoscope of spectacle plopped between the highways and wind farms. It’s a place where pool parties kick off at 8am, drag brunch margaritas are a breakfast staple, and colorful art installations peacock on every corner. If you haven’t made your way to Robolights, here’s why it’s a must-see. 

Robolights is a sprawling residential plot that’s about as eye-popping as they come. And each year, artist Kenny Irwin Jr. tears down his masterpiece and starts anew. Using scavenged and gifted trash items, he constructs a mental wonderland of robots, tunnels, bridges, trolls, whosits and whatsits, giant chairs, aliens, creatures from the deep, interactive arcades – whatever comes to mind. 

It’s the definition of controlled chaos. It’s 4 acres of upcycled paint cans, phone chords, plastic bottles, tires, hubcaps, cages, garden hoes, 8 million Christmas lights, disco balls, giant Christmas blow-ups, busted electronics, patched up bouncy houses, car parts, unwanted toys … imagine the Wall-E junkyard then blasted with paint. It’s kinda like that. 

To visit this fun house (it’s actually the artist’s residence), check the website first – it’s closed during parts of the year so the Irwin can work on his masterpiece. Bring a few bucks for a suggested donation (it takes money to keep those lights on!) and your walking shoes – it takes about 45 minutes to walk through the whole thing. 

If you’re in the Palm Springs area, take time to explore Joshua Tree National Park, Pioneertown, and the Integratron. And obviously brunch with the Desert Divas… 

Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month: Q&A with Artist Jazmin Harms

There’s no such thing as a “disability” when it comes to creativity or work ethic. A sense of purpose runs through all of us, and that force is strong with Jazmin Harms. Jazmin is a resident artist at the SlingShot Art Studio and Gallery in our hometown of Santa Barbara.

We’re big fans of SlingShot since it’s not your typical gallery: The art on the walls is created by 40 in-house artists with intellectual disabilities. A branch of the mission-driven Alpha Resource Center, SlingShot provides a sunny, open studio space to encourage creative expression and a modern gallery for artists to sell their art in the heart of downtown.

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Jazmin Harms is this month’s featured artist at SlingShot’s latest gallery show, ROAR. Her use of graphite on paper brings life to the animals she loves. SlingShot Teaching Artist Mike Blaha sat down with Jazmin to ask her about some of her favorite things.

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Where is your favorite place in nature?

Jelly Bowl in Carpenteria. I walk to the Beach. It takes about 20+ minutes but I like the journey to the beach. I bring my phone to take pictures. My favorite subject is the sunset. I look for the “golden hour” when the sun just disappears and there are dolphins. 

What kind of art do you create?

I draw only animals all the time. I pick pictures that I can depict honestly and are true to their forms. Big predatory animals are the most interesting and big cats are my favorite. 

What medium do you use?

I use graphite because I like the way the shades of graphite renders the animals. 

What time of year is your favorite? 

I like summer evenings the best because I can stay at the beach for longer. I time my arrival to catch the “golden hour.”

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Taking photographs of the sunset seems challenging, how do you do it? 

I like using foreground objects like rocks, driftwood and surf to accentuate the sunsets. I love seeing whales and dolphins. My favorite colors are the oranges and yellows. 

What else do you like about the beach? 

I like to go alone to feel a strong sense of nature. I hike up and down the beach to collect sea glass. Finding blue is my favorite. I have quite a large collection of sea glass. I get a calming effect that lasts the rest of the evening. I go as often as I can.

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To see Jazmin’s amazing work, check out the ROAR show at the SlingShot Studio. We held a pop-up fundraiser for March First Thursday (which is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, btw), and we can say firsthand that all the art is stellar!

For more on our mission to create and support opportunities for people with disabilities, check out this letter from our CEO. A portion of every Toad&Co purchase directly contributes to our mission.

Winning Recipe from the 6th Annual Grilled Cheese Smackdown

What do Picasso, Van Gogh, and Rembrandt all have in common? All three of these famous creatives were able to produce stunning artwork from relatively simple materials. The magic lies in the artist’s ability to create something greater than the sum of their materials, and this philosophy is exactly what propelled UCSB’s Bren School to victory at the 6th Annual Grilled Cheese Smackdown. For those unfamiliar, the Grilled Cheese Smackdown is the biggest cooking competition west of Paris, and draws some of the world’s best chefs and artisan sandwich makers (that we know of).

With stiff competition and numerous competitors duking it out for the coveted Golden Spatula trophy, recipes are often kept secret. After all, why would you divulge such confidential and fame-inducing information? But this reserved mindset is not shared by all, especially the team from UCSB’s Bren School. They were generous enough to share the recipe to their winning sandwich, The Vampire Slayer, so everyone can enjoy their marvelous creation. Recreating the greatest grilled cheese sandwich of the year may be difficult, but rest assured, with enough time and dedication, you’ll surely be able to turn out a sandwich capable of slaying vampires!

The Vampire Slayer by UCSB’s Bren School

Ingredients

1 loaf of sourdough bread (The winning bread was from Helena Ave Bakery.)
Vampire Slayer Garlic Cheddar Cheese (Try some from Face Rock creamery.)
Dubliner Irish Cheddar Cheese (The one from Kerrygold is a good bet.)
Garlic Parsley Butter (1 stick of butter, 4 cloves of mashed garlic, liberal pinch of parsley.)
Homemade Marinara Sauce.

Instructions

For one sandwich, allocate enough Vampire Slayer Garlic Cheddar Cheese slices to cover an entire piece of sourdough bread.
Top the Vampire Slayer Garlic Cheddar cheese with a few slices of Dubliner Irish Cheddar Cheese.
Liberally apply garlic parsley butter to the outsides of both pieces of sourdough bread.
After the garlic butter has been applied to the bread, garnish the outsides with parmesan cheese for a toasted parmesan crust.
Place the sandwich on an already hot griddle, and toast until the bread has a light brown color, and a crispy texture.
Now you are ready to experience The Vampire Slayer!

DSC02027.JPGThe best team of the 6th Annual Grilled Cheese Smackdown, UCSB’s Bren School!