Muralist Jedrek Speer
By Kerri Regan
Story by Kerri Regan
LOVE. Unity. Peace. Harmony. They’re the values that should drive us every day - but in case you need a reminder, just take a stroll through downtown Chico.
Colorful murals emblazoned with these powerful words are relatively new to Chico, but they’re quickly becoming so iconic that people have staged wedding photos in front of them. And the heart behind them, Jedrek Speer, couldn’t be more delighted.
Speer was born and raised in the Chico area and got involved in the street art and graffiti community after moving to Los Angeles. After living there for nine years, he moved back to Chico with his wife and two children.
“I felt like the community lacked the vibrant inspiration that a bigger city like LA or San Francisco has,” Speer says. “There’s a big mural explosion right now all over the world. Murals really do change a community, whether someone’s bummed out and they drive by and they see something that makes them happy, or someone gets inspired that there are bigger things possible than they imagined.”
His medium is mural-grade spray paint, which can withstand repeated beatdowns by the sun’s ultraviolet rays, and his messages are beautifully simple.
“I’m really into typography and words, and I had this idea for a big word, like ‘Love,’ huge on the wall, and Colleen Winters from Lulu’s loved that idea,” Speer says, so she commissioned him to paint a mural on the exterior wall of her business at Humboldt and Park avenue.
With the Love mural, “I bit off a lot more than I could chew for sure,” Speer says, adding that it took six 18- to 20-hour days to complete it. “I couldn’t use a projector for that one, so I printed outlines on massive pieces of paper, rolled it downand sprayed through perforations that allowed me to get my guidelines. Then it was freehand from there.”
The rainbow-colored Unity mural followed later that year on the Shubert’s side of the Boys and Girls Club of the North Valley. That one was on a similar timeframe, where he left his day job on a Friday afternoon and painted until the wee hours of the morning, then worked almost around the clock all weekend before wrapping things up that Monday morning.
Speer’s stepsister, Jessica Peck, handled many of the logistical details for the Unity mural and describes it as “huge and bright and just lovely,” adding that the time of day and the weather appears to change the mural’s color and texture. “And the Love wall is right by Shubert’s, so it’s seen by every group of humans who know Chico,” she adds.
Once Love and Unity were complete, Speer chatted with the folks from the Peace and Justice Center in Chico about embellishing their wall. “I was going to paint it myself and I mocked up a couple ideas,” Speer says. “But Shepard Fairey painted peace and justice murals all over the world, and I thought, ‘You know, I think he needs to paint the peace mural.’”
Speer had met Fairey while living in Los Angeles. The world-renowned artist is the founder of OBEY clothing and is perhaps best known for creating the “HOPE” poster that supported Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. Fairey sent a team of artists to paint the mural at 526 Broadway in mid-August. The justice center raised nearly $6,000 to pay for the red, black, gold and white Peace and Harmony mural.
“It took forever and we had to jump through so many hoops, but it’s awesome and a huge success and people are shocked that we have some of his art in our town,” Speer says. “As much as I love painting murals, I want to see other people’s art. I want to bring artists from around the world to paint murals.”
Though he doesn’t have anything specific on the horizon, he anticipates orchestrating at least another mural or two before the end of the summer.
“The murals I’ve painted here have made a much bigger impact than I expected,” Speer says. “Here, people are really taken back – they’ll say ‘that really touched me,’ ‘that really means something to me,’ or ‘boy, this is what the community needed.’ People take their wedding photos in front of them – and I was just trying to add a little bit of color. It’s also been a huge impact on my kids. They’ll say, ‘Hey, my
dad painted that,’ and I can tell they’re really proud of that. It brings
it home.” Butte County Supervisor and Shasta County Arts Council Executive Director Debra Lucero says public art carries immeasurable value. “Murals are an expression of creativity from a local community,” she says. “They are oftentimes the most visible public art that we have. They inspire while motivating us to consider something outside ourselves. They also feed a great desire in today’s fast-moving world to stop and take a selfie. More murals. More inspiration. More beauty!”
That’s certainly the muralist’s desire.
“I want people to take away a general sense of inspiration,” Speer says. “The word that’s on the mural, Unity or Love, that’s what I want them to take with them. I want it to add to a sense of pride in the community itself – this is Chico, it’s a really unique place, it’s really special. I’ve lived all over the world and I’ve been a lot of places, and here I am to make a home.” •
Find him on Instagram: @seizer_one