Bay Area Artists Are Lighting Up the Empty Streets With Gorgeous Murals During the Pandemic

With COVID-19 wreaking havoc in every reach of the world, everyone has felt the impact. Just one stroll down the street, even in the once-busiest of hubs, can feel like walking through a ghost town. The sidewalks are barren, businesses are boarded up, and streets are almost entirely void of drivers.

In the midst of the madness, arts organizations Building 180 and Art for Civil Discourse are teaming up to spread a bit of color—literally—to their community. Their organization, appropriately named “Paint the Void” is reaching out to businesses and artists in the Bay area to turn all the boarded-up businesses into beautiful artwork. Their goal is to prevent the towns from turning into a post-apocalyptic cityscape through messages of positivity, love, and encouragement.

“We see all those boarded up doorways as potential canvases,” says Building 180’s co-founder Shannon Riley. The wooden barriers that were erected to signify the close of a business can be a harrowing sight, so these artists are determined to turn all of the commercial boulevards into art walks while the world waits the virus out.

"We thought that beautifying the streets with murals would be a good place for people who are still working the frontlines and getting out there every day," said Meredith Winner, organizer of Paint the Void. "We wanted to bring hope into the community and inspire people.”

The members involved include restaurants, bars, and small businesses in the San Francisco and Oakland area who were forced to close due to coronavirus. Paint the Void connects those eligible businesses with visual artists to decorate the boarded storefronts. Most artwork is painted in advance of installation or printed to be wheatpasted in order to comply with stay-at-home orders. A handful of artists will be creating the art at off-hours with personal protective gear.

In addition to spreading positivity through artwork, the organization is also fundraising to cover the cost of supplies and providing a stipend for artists who have been affected by COVID-19. As one can expect, artists are experiencing hardship from canceled gigs, art shows, and festivals. Paint the Void hopes to alleviate financial stress to artists who are struggling to pay rent for their art studios and not having a space to create.

As for what happens to the murals after the shelter-in-place order is lifted, the plan is to continue to pay it forward. Once businesses reopen, many artists plan to auction their murals and donate to those badly affected by the pandemic.

If you would like to support out-of-work artists while giving small businesses a gift during this uncertain period, you can participate or make a donation on their website at