Local Artist Tells the History of Hayward

“The Mural Program is in place to not only ‘add to a sense of place,’ but to do so in a respectful manner and one which others who might otherwise ‘tag’ show respect,” said Bidwell. “Here’s the best part, they do! I have to say I applaud these ‘artists in the making’ for respecting our finished work, just as I respect theirs.”

 

Local Artist Tells the History of Hayward
By Cheyann Elmore
Arts & Entertainment Editor


Photographer: Natalia Aldana, The Pioneer

The 2,000 square feet mural can be seen on Jackson St. in Hayward. “I love what I do and the people who tell me that my art inspires them.”

From her beginnings with school butcher paper and crayons, to now creating life-like and artistic murals for the public to enjoy, artist Jean Bidwell uses her unique background to bring the history of Hayward to life in her newest downtown mural.

Born and raised in the Central Valley, living on various small farms with her family, Bidwell reflects on how her childhood and family inspired her to do the work. “My father acted as ranch foreman. He pretty much got a crop organized from planting through harvest and then we’d move on; it was a great childhood,” said Bidwell. “As the youngest of five, I had the world to myself, my imagination and my dog were my only companions and we had an absolute blast.”

Bidwell has been drawing as far back as she can remember and her parents made sure she was stocked with crayons and drawing paper. Bidwell mentioned that if she wasn’t watching the symphony on television, she was always drawing something on her handy dandy butcher paper.

Bidwell attended a small, private women’s college in Los Angeles, while working towards her degree in Education. During her junior year, she decided to declare a major in Fine Arts, with a minor in Philosophy.

“It just broke my parent’s hearts,” said Bidwell. “They said I’d be just as good off as joining a rock band. They were right, for 30 years anyway, but two weeks after graduation, oddly enough, I landed a position as a High School teacher in Sierra Madre.”

She continued teaching high school and junior college for 10 years before taking a sabbatical and moving to a cabin near Big Bear Lake, Calif. to envelop herself in her art.

“While I was in the cabin, I enrolled in a course through the Cornell School of Ornithology. It was the best thing I ever did,” said Bidwell. “It was a great course of study and it had me hooked on birds. I painted nothing but birds for an entire year. In the interest of frugality, I worked strictly with watercolor and once I moved back into society, I painted anything and everything that gave me that wonderful ‘ah ha’ moment.”

“I still find some odd need to share it with anyone who might have missed out,” she added. “It’s a beautiful world you know, absolutely stunning, especially in the minutest of details, I love to focus on what we can’t see in passing.”

Bidwell has created a variety of murals throughout her artistic career. Her first mural was painted in the boys locker room of her high school and since then, she has left her creative mark in the chow hall of the Camarillo State Mental Hospital, at a local fire station and outside of Captain Aqua’s Dive Center right here in Hayward.

Bidwell also works directly with the Hayward Mural Program, which was developed in 2009 as an anti-graffiti initiative.

“This program has become far more than what it was designed to be,” said Bidwell. “The Hayward Mural Program was created to deter ‘tagging’ at its simplest. Tagging has become a symbol of disrespect for more than a few neighborhoods throughout Hayward.”

The program has partnered up with the City of Hayward to contribute to the “cleanliness” of city.

The program has been counteracting the amount of tagging and graffiti by showcasing the beautiful and detail-oriented artwork of local artists throughout the city.

“The Mural Program is in place to not only ‘add to a sense of place,’ but to do so in a respectful manner and one which others who might otherwise ‘tag’ show respect,” said Bidwell. “Here’s the best part, they do! I have to say I applaud these ‘artists in the making’ for respecting our finished work, just as I respect theirs.”

Currently Bidwell is working diligently to complete her mural in downtown Hayward, in which she is aiming to represent the essence of Hayward’s history.

“It began as a ‘photographic representation’ of the History of Hayward, ‘snapshots [of the] past and present,” said Bidwell.

While Bidwell was conversing with her friend about the mural, a local resident chimed in to ask her why she hadn’t started from the very beginning, back in the days of the Ohlone Indians.
Since then, she was again re-designed her mural to better represent the city’s history in its entirety.

“I painted in the Ohlone influence, the introduction of the cattle industry by way of Guillermo Castro and onto William Hayward’s purchase of the land we currently know as Hayward,” said Bidwell. “From that point, I started doing research, both via computer and man and woman on the street interviews. It’s all good and it’s all from the memories of the local community.”

Bidwell admitted that although painting in this downtown location can be very tiresome and tedious, the Jackson Street commuters make for very interesting entertainment as they sit frustrated in that daily bumper-to-bumper traffic Hayward residents all know too well.

The mural is set to be completed sometime next month.

This entry was published in The Pioneer Online on Thursday, April 26th, 2012 at 12:37 pm.



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