Murals in Sacramento lack Stephon Clark representation

Sac State students respond to its absence — some say mural would not be enough


Brittney Delgado - The State Hornet

The Johnny Cash mural on L Street’s Residence Inn by Marriott downtown was put up as part of the 2018 Wide Open Walls festival. Sac State students have differing opinions on whether there should be a mural dedicated to Stephon Clark.

In a city full of public art meant to showcase Sacramento’s history and culture, the absence of a mural dedicated to Stephon Clark, an unarmed 22-year-old whose killing by police received international attention, is more apparent than ever.

This lack of artistic representation of Clark comes on the heels of the Sacramento District Attorney’s decision Saturday not to charge the two officers involved in the shooting and killing of Clark.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra then announced Tuesday that his office’s independent investigation into the shooting concluded that no criminal charges can be sustained.

Clark was killed by Sacramento Police Department officers Terrence Mercadal and Jared Robinet on March 16 of last year, which started a larger, national conversation and uproar within the Black Lives Matter community, leading to marches and protests. Clark was shot and killed in his grandmother’s backyard when police allegedly mistook his cellphone for a firearm.

RELATED: No charges filed against officers who shot and killed Stephon Clark

In early August of last year, a mural of country music icon Johnny Cash was placed on the side of L Street’s Residence Inn by Marriott in downtown Sacramento as part of the 2018 Wide Open Walls festival.

The Cash mural, along with many others, newly decorated the downtown streets as a way to showcase the city’s fabric and culture. According to the Wide Open Walls website, the festival was created to “promote and celebrate public art.”

Every year, the festival takes new applications for artists to submit their work but they also take “Wall applications” where businesses can submit a wall on their business or nearby to have painted.

The art adorning Sacramento’s walls is varied, including pieces such as a mural dedicated to the 2018 Oscar-nominated and Sacramento-based film “Lady Bird” and a mural reading “Sacramento” placed on the back wall of Sacramento State’s Shasta Hall.

Nearly a year after his death there still isn’t any form of art representation in remembrance of Clark’s death around Sacramento.

RELATED: Sac State student organizes protest in response to Stephon Clark shooting

Channing Corbin, a Sac State art history major feels that there should be a mural placed in Sacramento to remember Clark.

“I think there definitely should be with the amount of black deaths that happen way too frequently and police brutality,” Corbin said. “I think it’d be a very good way to honor him … It’s still a human life that was lost and it’s a good way to honor him.”

However, Corbin does not think a mural is enough. She said the mural would be important but added that real change needs to happen within the community.

“I feel like murals are great for remembering people, but unless we get to the root of the issue, then it’s kind of just fluff,” Corbin said. “Unless we get the police to listen to the community, then it’s not going to change.”

Corbin said a mural might be just what the police needs for conversation to start up again and change to be made.

“Having murals is great, but we need to have action behind that, so that’s what I would want,” Corbin said. “I’d like a mural then maybe people to sit down with the police and talk to them about what could be changed.”

RELATED: GALLERY: Protesters clash outside statewide law enforcement expo

Josiah Greer, an education major, echoed Corbin’s view in the sense that he thinks there should be a mural to represent Clark and his death. He said that it is not a good sign that a mural hasn’t been installed yet.

“His death was a huge wake-up call for the city and the nation,” Greer said. “He should be immortalized in some way for the martyr that he is.”

Greer said it would be nice to see the city provide a space for an artist to place the mural.

“The city should create a space for an artist with obviously great ability to create a mural here in Sacramento,” Greer said.

RELATED: Stephon Clark protests continue outside District Attorney’s office

Other students felt differently about the situation, questioning whether Clark deserves to have a mural of him painted in Sacramento when other cases of police brutality have happened in the area.

Sac State biology major Gina Bowden said Sacramento represents many different forms of art through its streets but added that not everyone can get a mural.

“There has been other police shootings in Sacramento so we need to ask the question, ‘How specific can you get?’” Bowden said. “Who’s to say one deserves a mural over another?”

Putting up a mural in Sacramento is not an easy task and most artists go through the Wide Open Walls festival to put their art on a business wall. Other artists take it upon themselves and paint without permission which is illegal under Penal Code 594 and can lead to the artist being charged with a misdemeanour or felony.

Off of 16 and I street and next to the “Lady Bird” mural, an alleyway is filled with graffiti, including a spray painting of Nelson Muntz from “The Simpsons.”

Art is a large representation of Sacramento and the Wide Open Walls event allows artist from in and out of town to represent different aspects of culture, music and entertainment. The 2019 festival will show if an artist is willing to put current events into the mix.

Additional reporting by Milan Cabebe.

Correction: This article was updated Tuesday, March 5, in order to correctly state that California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced his decision on Tuesday.