Urban Artist David Flores Paints APU Shakespeare Mural

by Camille Garcia '15

“Shakespeare,” they said and the artist loved the idea. He expertly began to sketch the legendary playwright. A week later, standing before the 40-square-foot white wall, he set up his projector and placed the stencil. An outlined portrait of Shakespeare lit up the space. The artist then proceeded to a crane that lifted him high above the ground to work his magic with rollers and spray paint. Three days and 18 hours later, the completed Shakespeare mural adorned the eastern entrance to the Department of Theater Arts in the Mary Hill Center. The famous face, cast in black, white, and gray, appears above a giant painted red ribbon that reads “Theater Arts.”

The artist, David Flores, a Los Angeles-based muralist, is well known for painting prominent art figures such as Andy Warhol, Frida Kahlo, and Salvador Dali. Commissioned across the globe for his work, Flores has collaborated with Vans and Disney, among other prominent corporations. A gift from the Windgate Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports arts programs, funded the project.

Jim Daichendt, Ed.D., associate dean of the School of Visual and Performing Arts, first connected with the muralist when he reviewed Flores’ work in his book Stay Up! Los Angeles Street Art<. Through their interaction, Daichendt envisioned Flores painting a mural on APU’s campus. Daichendt proposed his idea to APU’s stakeholders—from faculty members to the university’s president—and everyone loved the idea.

“When you paint a mural in a public place such as this, it communicates that creative people live and work here, and these places really matter to us,” said Daichendt.

Rachel Tracie, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of the Department of Theater Arts, echoed Daichendt’s enthusiasm for the project, believing the Shakespeare mural would have a fundamental impact on the department. The opening show for the school year, A Midsummer’s Night Dream, coincided with the art project, which drummed up excitement and reflected the department’s commitment to produce plays of cultural importance.

“Shakespeare seemed a natural choice because he’s one of the only playwrights recognizable to more than just theater people,” said Tracie. “The mural is different—it speaks to who we are and what we want to be as a department, which is doing classical work, but also new things with it.”

To accompany the mural, associate professor Stephen Childs, MFA, coordinated an on-campus exhibit to highlighting Flores’ artwork and product designs. His art is on display in the Duke Art Gallery through December 12. The new mural and the exhibit are also featured in GIFT, a hardbound book showcasing Flores’ career, an exclusive interview of Childs and Flores, and essays by the faculty from the Department of Art and Design. Within the next few weeks, the book will be released in bookstore retailers and online.

“Hosting David Flores and commissioning his work play a role in elevating the university’s stature in the larger art community and exposes the APU community to a prominent Los Angeles artist,” said Childs.

Flores felt honored to paint Shakespeare for the APU community, saying it was one of the most prominent murals he has done to date. “Shakespeare was an artist of words,” said Flores. “It's my intention to promote art and artists—it falls in line with my work.”