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Mural connects history, cultural equity to healthy communities

Kaiser Permanente has commissioned a 330-foot long mural in Berkeley that tells a story of culture and history in the East Bay. Pictured, artist Desi Mundo works on a portion of the Carleton Street mural.

A new mural commissioned by Kaiser Permanente that celebrates the healing nature of the East Bay’s diverse cultures will soon take up an entire city block of west Berkeley.

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Mundo uses a lift to work on a portion of the mural that depicts a west Berkeley factory worker.

The Carleton Street mural between Ninth and Tenth streets is in a street-level parking lot for employees who will work in the new Kaiser Permanente medical office nearby, scheduled to open May 5. Stay tuned for more information on new medical offices opening in Berkeley and Redwood City.

“Kaiser Permanente wanted to be intentional about representing culture and history,” said Desi Mundo, the artist constructing the mural with about 400 cans of spray paint as well as brush and roll-on acrylic paints. “There’s a holistic healing element to it. Part of the idea is that healing takes place simply by practicing your culture.”

Giant letters spell out “East Bay Rising Together.” Within those letters are images from some of the prominent East Bay cultures, religions, history, and people.

Yoga, the Ohlone people, a Black factory worker representing west and south Berkeley communities, a whirling dervish representing Sufism, an African American doctor listening to the heartbeat of an African drum, redwood trees, the African goddess Yemaya, and other images representing Asian, Guatemalan, Yemeni, Mexican, and Muslim traditions all adorn the parking lot wall.

“This is what I’ve wanted to do with my life since I was 16. Painting is what I’m supposed to be doing.” 

Jay Murphy, Kaiser Permanente’s National Facilities Capital Projects East Bay team manager, said he was inspired to commission the mural after attending a chalk art festival held by the Kaiser Permanente Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity Art through Positivity project.

“I’m a big believer in the healing power of art and how murals can promote cultural equity, and it struck me that we have this huge wall in Berkeley, so I thought, ‘Why don’t we put a mural on it?’” said Murphy.

Kaiser Permanente worked with one of its construction management firms to identify artists, and with the help of the 13-member East Bay Equity Inclusion and Diversity committee, it chose Mundo and helped approve a design, Murphy said.

Mundo said the mural attempts to show how “healing is about understanding our place in the universe.”

For example, he said the image of butterflies interspersed throughout the mural are a Mexican symbol for acknowledging the presence of ones’ ancestors and of a healthy relationship with death.

Mundo, who teaches art at Fremont High School and at Oakland Unity Middle School, said painting is what he is meant to do with his life and his way of achieving a healthy lifestyle.

“This is what I’ve wanted to do with my life since I was 16,” Mundo said. “Painting is what I’m supposed to be doing.”

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