When the members of the Curbside art collective look around LMU’s campus, what they see is a lot of potential – potential for fun. On a campus praised for its abundant natural beauty and sweeping views, Curbside has been adding some flair with a growing number of inspired murals that they have been commissioned to create in recent years. The group, which is a multi-faceted art collective comprised of studio arts majors Jacob Johanson, Jack Alving, Bobby Sutton, and their mentor, studio arts professor Macha Suzuki, refuses to be constrained to any one art form, and encompasses many components, including visual media and music, along with visual art.
The group has a storied history of exhibition and performance both on campus and off. The three students met their freshman year and had an opportunity to create their first mural in the fine arts department of a local high school. Word quickly spread about the group’s many talents, and they were contacted by LMU College of Communication and Fine Arts Dean Bryant Keith Alexander about presenting an exhibition in the Thomas P. Kelly Jr. (TPK) Student Art Gallery in the fall of 2019. This event included music, art, dance, and a fashion show. Among its higher profile interactions was opening for T-Pain at Fallapalooza 2019, and they have also written music and produced music videos.
“Our belief is that we can do anything. Life can be a lot more fun when you make cool stuff with the people you want to make it with,” said Sutton.
Lately, Curbside has turned their creative eye toward the LMU campus, creating a number of stunning murals to brighten up some less-than-exciting spaces. Among the areas that have been enlivened by their art are the restaurant space in McKay Hall (formerly The Habit), the LMU College of Business Administration’s Hilton Center for Business foyer, and a mural in the TPK Gallery to honor the Democratic Primary Debates which took place at LMU in December 2019.
Suzuki, a clinical assistant professor of studio arts, joined Curbside during their first gallery show at TPK. Suzuki describes himself as the “curb-commander,” an advisor and (sometimes) voice of reason.“I’m not so much their professor as I am a mentor and colleague,” he told us. “I’m just a like-minded artist who happen to be more experienced working with clients. My hope is that by working together with these young artists, I can guide them to be successful people with integrity.”
In December 2019, Johanson, Alving and Sutton were about to catch their flights home for winter break when Curbside was notified of an opportunity from the university’s marketing team to create a mural in honor of the Democratic primary debate being hosted at LMU. The students quickly cancelled their flights and stayed on campus to complete the mural, which took them a total of four days. Not only did the group get to hobnob and take photos with luminaries such as Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, they also had the opportunity to attend the debate.
“I personally love politics and the primaries, so I was really excited to be a part of it,” said Suzuki. “The university gave us creative license to come up with the image, and the entire design was completed in a few days.”
The next mural commissioned to Curbside is in the foyer of the Hilton Center for Business. The team took a research-oriented approach to this project, studying Keith Haring and other contemporary artists to find inspiration for the piece. They aimed to integrate lots of colors in the image and represent many different cultures.
“We started by looking at the CBA mission statement and took what resonated with us for the mural design,” said Johanson. “We wanted the piece to have a pop-art feel and decided to create people exchanging business cards in a huge pattern within itself.”
The group ironically finished the mural of people shaking hands the same week that LMU announced campus was closing due to COVID-19 in March 2020.
Curbside’s most recent project is a mural on the wall of the former Habit Burger Grill on the ground floor of McKay Hall. The restaurant used to be a 50s-style diner known as Iggy’s Diner before it was replaced by the Habit Burger Grill in 2019. The eatery will be rebranded as Iggy’s Café for the fall of 2021 and Curbside was excited to have a part in re-establishing the Iggy’s.
“We all love and miss Iggy’s Diner and wanted to bring back a community feel to the restaurant with a mural to represent LMU in Los Angeles,” said Sutton. “I initially drew a huge map of LA with LMU in the middle and then we added the bluff sunset colors in the LMU letters.”
The concept behind the mural was to have many small drawings within the image, so when the viewer approaches the wall, they have a more intimate encounter with the details of the work, said Suzuki.
“We want to make it feel like a sunset in there,” said Alving. “Iggy’s used to have chrome counter tops and red stools, but the Habit had brown booths that made the space feel dead. We want to bring a cool color scheme back to the diner with the sunset colors on the mural.”
Curbside continues to look to the future as the student members approach their senior year at LMU. “Our goals for this next year are to keep researching and taking a deeper look into film. We also want to continue to connect with our neighboring community off-campus in El Segundo,” said Johanson. “Something big is coming next year that people are going to talk about.”
As Suzuki put it, “It’s refreshing to be around this group’s energy and audacity for life.” We can’t wait to see what’s next!