Irvine mural is taken off life support

Zio Ziegler's giant mural inspired by San Francisco street art is seen on the side of Tilly's wall alongside the 405 freeway in Irvine.
(Don Leach / Daily Pilot)

In a time when attention spans are as fleeting as a post on Snapchat or Instagram, a one-year shelf life for any social statement might seem like an eternity. Now, as a groundbreaking work of art in Irvine reaches its end, its creator and sponsors hope it will have an everlasting effect.

By the end of next month, the colorful mural of vibrant figures covering a 15,000-square-foot wall of the Tilly’s office building in Irvine most likely will be erased. The artwork by Bay Area painter Zio Ziegler took three days to create and outlasted its original three-month permit as it caught the attention of motorists on the 405 Freeway near the 133 toll road for the past year.

Patrons Vans, Tilly’s and the Artists Republic gallery of Laguna Beach have declined to pursue another extension — content, it seems, to have made their point about what they see as a need for more public art in the area. Artists Republic owner Torrey Cook said she will continue to lobby in Irvine for some sort of “arts task force.”


Without a permit request, consideration of the mural already underway by the Irvine Planning Commission appears no longer relevant.

“I’m not insulted my mural is coming down,” said Ziegler, 28, from his art studio in Mill Valley, north of San Francisco. “I believe people appreciate it more when it’s ephemeral. But I do believe there should be more public art going up.”

Best known for his intricate, abstract, almost Picasso-like spray-painted murals, Ziegler has created large-scale urban art works in several major U.S. cities as well as in Europe and Asia. Ironically, as his mural in Irvine is set to come down, Zio said he’s focusing more on his studio work — painting on canvas and sculpting.

“I’m not walking away from muraling entirely,” Ziegler explained. “I always like to paint at that scale if the opportunity is interesting.”

The Tilly’s project was conceived in January 2015 by Cook as a way to promote art in Orange County and add some color to Irvine. Even if the mural lasted only a short time, the intent was to at least stimulate the conversation for more public art.

“A big part of my mission is to create awareness for the great art community that does live in Orange County,” said Cook. “The mural, I think, is a huge visual host of that. It’s amazing if it only goes to help create that awareness and hopefully create positive feelings in the future for whoever is going to do art projects.”


Cook enlisted support from the surf and skate apparel company Vans and approval from retailer Tilly’s in order to propose the project, then enlisted Ziegler who she has worked with in the past. The idea was championed by Irvine Planning Commission chairman Anthony Kuo who presided over discussions before the permit was approved last spring on a 4-1 vote.

“Irvine has long been known for its ‘beigness,’ ” said Kuo. “Schools and pools is all we were known for. [Artwork] was just never really a thought until Tilly’s and Vans and Artists Republic came to the city and said this is something we’d like to do.”

“Working with Vans and working with Torrey, it’s been a very symbiotic and awesome experience,” said Ziegler, explaining that his first exposure to art at a young age wasn’t through traditional museums but rather in the skate and surf culture of urban art and graffiti.

It did what it was intended to do, said Lauren Bryden, special projects manager for Tilly’s.

“It was there to make this statement to get people educated and get people excited about the arts,” she said. “I’m not sad that it’s going away, because I think it was purposeful for the time it was up.”

Cook admits that she is sad to see the mural go.

“The general response to the mural has been overwhelmingly positive. It is a wonderful project,” Cook reflected. “I feel like it’s such an addition to Irvine and Orange County and people’s commute.”

Ziegler said the many hundreds of positive letters and other communication are the most meaningful approval an artist can receive. Now he hopes the spirit of his art will inspire a lasting affect on the community.

“Think about the future of Irvine in 100 years. What’s the legacy? Do we live in a time too immediate to even care about legacy?” the artist said. “I believe that if we cared a little bit more about that, we’d start to acknowledge that maybe painting public walls or encouraging public art is more important.”