Creative: Strengthen Your Spirit
Shopping centers across America can be boring. There’s an homogenization about the architecture, like the same firm designed them all from New York to California, not to mention the stores themselves: big box retailers, repetitive brands, predictable chains, and restaurants whose menus offer the same old selections. If in your travels you hit the back roads, you can find some regional variety but nothing that reflects the spectrum of culture that makes up our proverbial melting pot.
However, there is a nondescript shopping center in an out-of-the-way location in Richmond, California which has brought a creative twist to its otherwise dull facade. It's wedged between the San Rafael Bridge and the Chevron Oil Refinery - not the best nor the most visible location. There are no homes in sight, and certainly no sense of a community. All you can see are abandoned warehouses, a few highway motels, and a gas station or two. And then you come upon this nondescript shopping center with its predictable drug store and coffee cafe anchoring each end. Ho-hum, you tell yourself, just another pit stop off the highway.
What a surprise, though, to see that on each brick column separating the dozen or so shops, there’s a mosaic depicting the history of Richmond. Not many shopping center developers would go to the trouble of commissioning an artist to decorate the columns. This artful addition to an obscure shopping center gave the area a sense of community - something that we need more of in America - and it gave me a reason to smile.