Above: A mural by Michaela Sanderson featuring an octopus attacking Oceanside Pier. The mural is on display in Pier View Coffee Co. downtown. Courtesy photo
OCEANSIDE — For years Michaela Sanderson had to set art aside, but now she hopes to bring it back to the forefront of her work while also encouraging more creative spaces for local artists.
Though a graduate of University of California San Diego’s art program, Sanderson has been primarily involved in social work since leaving college. In particular, Sanderson works for StandUp For Kids Oceanside, a local branch of the national nonprofit organization that services homeless youth 21 and under in North County.
Sanderson has a passion for helping youth but has had to let her passion for art take a backseat, doing only small art commission pieces here and there. More recently, Sanderson has been interested in painting more murals and had the chance to do so for the newly renovated Pier View Coffee Co.
Sanderson worked with new owner Josh Arbenz on two pieces for the coffee shop. One of those murals is in the storefront’s bathroom while the other sits high on the wall directly across from the front entrance.
The front mural features a giant octopus attacking the Oceanside Pier under a bright, full moon.
Sanderson explained that Arbenz had wanted the mural to depict the classic pier image, but she wanted something a little different.
“If you go into a lot of restaurants and hotels, they have the same stock photo of the pier,” Sanderson said. “It’s gorgeous and I love it, but I didn’t want to do another pier painting.”
Eventually the two compromised to come up with the octopus versus pier piece.
The second mural located in the bathroom features lifeguard Tower 5 having sunk to the bottom of the ocean with a herd of hammerhead sharks surrounding it.
Originally, the owner had wanted a shipwreck scene, Sanderson explained, but once again the two compromised.
“I wanted something iconic for Oceanside,” she said, settling on Tower 5.
It may seem as though Sanderson has a thing for eerie, monstrous content in her artwork, but that isn’t quite the case.
“It’s just fun,” she said, laughing, about the murals.
In fact, Sanderson is still trying to figure out her preferred style of art after putting it on the backburner for some time. What she does know, however, is that she wants to paint more murals around town.
Her dream would be to get a mural commission designed for the local youth and helped painted by the kids as well. Whether it’s working for a business, the city of Oceanside or a public school, Sanderson is open to it.
Sanderson was excited for the opportunity to have a local business owner want to feature artwork from a local artist like herself. Recently she’s been disappointed with some other new restaurants opting for more “cookie cutter” appearances instead of aiming for a look that shows Oceanside’s true colors.
“They’re trying to make it clean cut, but it’s never going to be clean cut,” she said about Oceanside. “There’s a bit of an edge here — I hope there always will be. It’s at the heart of who we are.”
Though Sanderson doesn’t have a problem with making things look more modern, she doesn’t want it done “at the expense of cutting out a city’s soul.”
“You don’t try to whitewash buildings here for the sake of trying to cut out cultures that have been here forever,” she said.
Oceanside has a thriving art community, according to Sanderson, with more artists based here than people realize.
“Until they’re given a space to come out and rally and show up, then we won’t know the type of art community that’s here,” she said.
Oceanside does have some art-oriented activities and spaces already, including the Oceanside Museum of Art as well as the First Friday Art Walks along Artist Alley, which are held every first Friday of the month between May and December.
The artist said she wants to see more restaurants, bars and other businesses “build bridges” with local artists and musicians to create more spaces for them to showcase their work.
Those who are interested in checking out more of Sanderson’s work can visit her Instagram account, @mas_art_oside.
Samantha Nelson covers Oceanside, Camp Pendleton and the decommissioning San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. She earned her journalism degree from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University, and has previously reported for The Athens Messenger in Athens, Ohio, and USA Today in McLean, Virginia. Follow her on Twitter: @samm1son