Local artist transforms community with one mural at a time

February 19, 2021 /

Brandon Thompson

Editor’s Note: To celebrate Black History Month, Kern Sol News is highlighting notable Black leaders in Kern County who are working to create positive change in their community.

Brandon Thompson, a local artist and Bakersfield native, is transforming his community with one art project at a time.

His most recent project turned one East Bakersfield underpass from a drug and violent-stricken spot to a beautiful symbol of hope for the young people living in the community. The “Bloom’ mural — off of Kentucky and Beale streets — incorporates young girls from the neighborhood and served to offer hope to the community. This was the first time he incorporated the community in his art, but after the responses from the mural, he plans to do more. 

“The responses really hit home for me,” said Thompson. “I grew up in the central part of Bakersfield, where I had to walk to and from school a lot just because of the situation or whatever. I saw some pretty raggedy things growing up. I just felt that location over there where we were, it just is an area where it hasn’t been given any attention for some time.” 

Brandon Thompson

Thompson recalls this location growing up and how it took the community to look out for each other. This is why Thompson was so moved by the community’s appreciation for him and his art in this location.

Prior to pursuing his career in art, Thompson, a Bakersfield High graduate, went to the Air Force for 14 years. 

“I traveled all over the world. It was probably the best experience of my life,” Thompson said of the Air Force. “Probably the best thing I could have done coming right out of high school.”

Thompson lived in Hawaii after the Air Force and started going to school to get his degree in Small Business and Entrepreneurship. He then returned to Bakersfield in 2017. 

Art has always been fascinating to Thompson. He said it was a great way to fill space for Thompson since he was a child. He recalls kids in his neighborhood coming over to enjoy the way his room was set up. He had art and people that inspired him like Air Jordans and Mahammad Ali.

“When I was a kid growing up, I had my bedroom walls decorated — head to toe — even the ceiling,” said Thompson. “The only thing that wasn’t covered was my light fixture. I always wanted to swap out as if it was a billboard space.”

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He started taking art seriously in 2009 when in Virginia. A friend encouraged him to take his hobby of spray painting logos and turn it into a career. Thompson taught himself how to develop and do different painting techniques through trial and error and YouTube.

“I always wanted to see the world in different colors and different styles,” explained Thompson about his artistic looks at the world. “Like take something that’s a graffiti style that’s really aggressive but take the subject that’s really soft and mash those two together.” 

His favorite form of art is doing graffiti style paintings. He gets a poster board and then hand cuts things out like stenciling with an exacto knife then uses graffiti cans. He enjoys making this and doing timelapse videos of the process. 

“Graffiti to me is an interesting medium and spray paint because you can get down a lot of color really fast,” Thompson said. “So that’s really one of my favorite styles that I’ve developed over the years.”  

To other young artists around Kern County, Thompson encourages them to explore and travel the world. Take advantage of opportunities, see what they are good at, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.

“I am an example of someone that came from Kern County. I went and did something positive, successful, and I’m still going,” he said. “I’m not even 40 years old yet, and I hope this is just the beginning. I had some people inspire me when growing up even in my young early ages, and I hope I can be that inspiration for others.”

JaNell Gore

Ja'Nell Gore is a student at Cal State Bakersfield. In addition to writing for Kern Sol News she is a poet who loves any chance she has to perform and be with her community.