The Murals of Pow! Wow! Long Beach

Long Beach is one of my very favorite cities. Not only did I go to college there (shout out to CSULB!) but it’s still where I spend much of my free time. Not only does it have a prime coastal location but it’s also home to a ton of cool spots from coffeehouses to restaurants to museums to both the The Queen Mary and The Aquarium of the Pacific. The city is also home to large amount of public art – much of it due to the annual mural festival Pow! Wow! Long Beach. With that festival in mind I recently headed to Long Beach to scout out some of its many murals.

Inaugurated in 2015, Pow! Wow! Long Beach is a week long celebration in which artists from all over the world descend on the city to paint public murals. In the 5 festivals to date nearly 100 hundred murals have gone up all over the city. And the best part? They’re all still there. Intended as permanent public works of art these murals have made Long Beach one of the most colorful cities in California.

Pow! Wow! Long Beach
mural by Tristan Eaton

The 2019 Pow! Wow! Long Beach was held July 21-28 resulting in 20 new murals in the city.  Now you may be wondering, “if the festival has passed why are you writing about it now?” Well, for the viewer the fun begins after the festival is over. Don’t get me wrong there are a range of public activities during the festival but, to me, it’s fun to head out after the celebrations have died down and have a bit of a scavenger hunt.

Pow! Wow! Long Beach
mural by Allison Bamcat

Armed with my Pow! Wow! Passport (a map is also available here) I headed to Long Beach to find me some murals. My journey led me down streets and through neighborhoods that were completely new to me and not only did I see some cool art but I also discovered a bunch of new restaurants and coffee bars I want to try!

Pow! Wow! Long Beach
mural by Hilda Palafox

And when I say it’s like a scavenger hunt…it really is! Just because I had an address on hand didn’t mean the murals jumped out at me. They can be located on any side of a building and I found myself walking through alleys and peering through chain link fences to find them.

Pow! Wow! Long Beach
mural by Kayla Mahaffey

Through my adventures I saw only a handful of the many murals all over the city and I’m eager to see more. Honestly, I already have. Ever since my adventure I’m now tuned in to the Long Beach murals and am starting to notice them all over. And some aren’t even part of Pow! Wow! It’s amazing how much public art is in Long Beach if you really start to look for it.