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San Francisco artist festoons Redwood City with wildlife bearing flowers

New mural series commemorates Redwood City’s lost industry

A rendering of leaping dear painted on a wall in Redwood City.
A rendering of a piece in the series not yet complete.

San Francisco artist Jane Kim (no relation to the politician) has painted foxes on the walls of Facebook as an artist in residence and 350 million years worth of bird evolution on the walls of Cornell University.

Give her a wall and she’ll put wildlife on it.

So when Redwood City non-profit (the Redwood City Improvement Association) offered her six walls around town and asked her to beautify the South Bay city, the results were leaping deer on the side of La Tartine, squirrels on the parking garages, and foxes chilling on public benches.

Kim tells Curbed SF that the “Flora From Fauna” series (the title refers to the chrysanthemums each creature bears in its mouth) started off as a slightly different, more domestic concept.

“I wanted residents to submit photos of their dogs jumping in play so we’d have joyful dogs painted all throughout Redwood City,” says Kim. It was a neat idea, but “the committee wasn’t sure how many good photos we’d turn up.”

The final project does still include a dog, but from there the concept branched out to local wildlife. “They’re meant to look like they exist within the city infrastructure, so they have shadows but no backgrounds,” she explains.

The flowers are a reference to Redwood City’s historical chrysanthemum craze, originally sparked by Japanese immigrants. In the ‘20s the city was the “chrysanthemum center of the world,” exporting so many of the flowers that it amounted to a $7 million industry in 1926.

That’s the equivalent of more than $96 million today. World War II squashed the peninsula’s flower industry via internment of the most prolific grower, though, and the Bay Area economy never did quite turn back toward flowers after the war. Now that history translates to some fresh local color.

Kim already finished up a fox on a bench near City Hall. Rain today delayed continuing her ground squirrels on the Marshall Street garage. A bald eagle, great blue heron, leaping deer, and of course the dog will follow in coming weeks.