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The story behind the huge A’s ‘STAY’ mural in Oakland

Dec 27, 2013, 2:04 PM PST

An Oakland police officer spotted a man spray-painting a wall. He stopped, rolled down the window, smiled, and complimented the man that was wielding an aerosol can with expert precision. After a brief and friendly exchange, the cop drove off and the man shook his spray paint can and marked the wall with more paint.

Would you believe the guy spray-painting the wall was actually helping the cop fight crime?

It’s almost impossible to walk a city block in Oakland without seeing graffiti. With that in mind, a group of artists known as TDK Collective are offering up a free solution. They’re spray-painting murals on the walls of local businesses. Once the work of art is completed, it goes untouched by the local taggers.

Their latest work of art is an Oakland Athletics-themed mural near Jack London Square. Francisco Sanchez is the man behind the vision. He is a 29-year-old aerosol artist that doubles as a high school art teacher in Oakland. He has been spray-painting walls for 17 years. His group has been around since 1985, and has earned the respect of the Oakland youth, so they typically leave their murals untouched.

Sanchez grew up an A’s fan and would like to see the team stay in Oakland.

“There’s also a lot of people that want them to stay, so we wanted to make that message visual,” Sanchez said. “I wanted to bring back memories to loyal fans that have been out here for generations.”

Sanchez chose to represent A’s fans of the past by painting Hall of Fame outfielder Rickey Henderson. To represent a future generation of A’s fans, he painted an image of his five-year-old niece. The word “STAY” is painted between the two life-like images.

The mural is being painted on a wall owned by Kimball’s Carnival. It is located at the intersection of 3rd and Washington Street in Oakland. Sanchez walks by the wall daily on the way to work and he noticed that it was being repeatedly vandalized. He reached out to the owners and offered to help. The murals are done at no cost to the owners, and TDK Collective does their best to raise money to buy the supplies needed to complete the projects.

“We’re not trying to make any money,” Sanchez said. “We’re donating our time. I actually teach at a high school right down the street. I come before I have a class and after my class has ended. It’s the same thing for the artists of TDK. Whenever they have a chance, they come help me for a few hours.”

This is actually the second attempt at painting the “STAY” mural. After sinking around $1,000 in supplies while working on the first attempt, the project was shut down. TDK Collective received written permission to paint on the first wall by the man that was running the property. It turns out that man was the son of the actual owner, and the father didn’t see the artistic vision.

After the project was halted, Sanchez received overwhelming public support. Citizens of Oakland and city representatives offered to help, so he started a page to raise enough money to finish the mural elsewhere. Oakland Mayor Jean Quan personally helped Sanchez reach his initial goal, which was to recoup the price of the paint.

The subject of part of the mural even randomly stopped by to offer some kind words.

“A car stops by and somebody says, ‘Does that mean I’m still alive?” Sanchez recalled. “He said it again and he got out of the car. I kind of turned around and it was Rickey. That was really cool.”

Henderson is just one of many people that have stopped by to watch Sanchez paint. Upon seeing the mural, people stop in their tracks, pause to take pictures, chat with Sanchez, and offer their encouragement. It gives Sanchez and the artists of TDK Collective a great opportunity to educate people about aerosol art. Almost everyone that lays eyes on the project is in disbelief that it is done without paintbrushes.

To be a part of the project, check out their fundraising site. You can also check out more of their work on Facebook.

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