The Magic of Pow! Wow!

The Magic of Pow! Wow!

POW! – the impact that art has on a person

WOW! – the reaction of that art

Together they form POW WOW; a term that describes a gathering. This one just happens to celebrate culture and art.

Long Beach - June 2015

Pow! Wow! began as a movement in Hawaii thanks to the vision of founder Jasper Wong.

Now in its 5th year, Pow! Wow! Hawaii continually brings hundreds of local and international artists together for this week-long event each February.

What was initially a way for street artists to gather together to create public art has turned into a global network of artists that involve gallery shows, lectures, schools for art and music and live art installations in additional to the mural projects around the world.

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Pow! Wow! Taiwan

The concept of Pow! Wow! started to spread as the movement expanded to countries such as Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, New Zealand, Germany and more.

And in 2015, Long Beach, California, became the next canvas for Pow! Wow! where I was invited to see the magic happen in person.

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The eight-day event saw some most talented street artists including Cryptik, Jeff Soto, James Jean, Bumblebee, and Fafi.

Watching each and every artist slave away at their mural, trying to complete their piece in time, was both inspiring and at times almost painful to watch.

Sweat dripping down their faces, you could see their skin frying under the hot California sun as they agonized over every last detail.

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In the end, their pieces were worth all the pain, sweat, and sleepless nights.

The talent that these artists have, and the way they executed their visions on the sides of these massive buildings, was just incredible. Who knew you could do so much and have so much control with aerosol cans. 

And while the murals are no doubt the centerpiece of any Pow! Wow! event, there is much more to the event than spray paint and detail brushes.

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Driving from mural to mural, we encountered countless other artists, musicians, photographers and journalists. Together we all became part of this unique creative community built upon one common denominator: the appreciation of arts and culture.

Throughout the week there were other various events interspersed that included talks with the artists, an opening party with DJ Neil Armstrong, and a concert by the Pow! Wow! School of Music.

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Artist Fafi alongside her installation

Pow! Wow! Long Beach was all held in conjunction with the awesome Vitality and Verve: Transforming the Urban Landscape exhibit at the Long Beach Museum of Art and the fourth annual Ruck Out Long Beach festival.

I’ll admit that I had no idea what a Ruckus was before, but I sure do now! It was fun getting to see all the different types of Ruckus out there. And these baby bikes are actually kind of adorable– which is why I still think it looks a bit ridonculous to see big, tatted up men riding them.

But hey, who am I to judge?

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Even though the festivities are now over, all the excitement they garnered has businesses already clamoring to get their walls in on the action next year. So yes, stay on the look out for Pow! Wow! Long Beach’s return.

Until then, the murals are on permanent display throughout the city, so be sure to add them to your already long list of things to do in Long Beach.

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Have you heard of Pow! Wow! before? Which mural is your favorite?

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A huge thank you to Visit Long Beach for arranging my trip to the city to experience Pow! Wow! Long Beach live. As always, all opinions and appreciation of  arts + culture is my own.
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29 Comments

  1. September 28, 2015 / 3:45 am

    I’ve not heard of this event before but my favourite has the be the cranes painted in the style of a Japanese screen. Although they are all very talented.

  2. July 23, 2015 / 3:26 am

    I’ve never heard of Pow Wow before, but these murals are amazing. I was born in Long Beach, and it’s amazing to see this kind of artwork!

    • Beth Williams
      July 24, 2015 / 1:02 pm

      I didn’t know you were from Long Beach originally! Man, where haven’t you lived? haha.

      Pow! Wow! has even hit Asia, so you’ll have to check them out this fall.

  3. Elizabeth O.
    July 22, 2015 / 9:17 pm

    These are beautiful! It must have been so exciting to watch them work.

    • Beth Williams
      July 24, 2015 / 1:00 pm

      I really enjoyed it!

  4. July 22, 2015 / 6:34 pm

    This is new to me! I love these murals. It’s amazing how much work those artist put into these!

    • Beth Williams
      July 24, 2015 / 12:59 pm

      Yeah, the amount of work was crazy. Most of them worked around the clock for all eight days.

  5. July 22, 2015 / 1:56 pm

    That art is definitely WOW-inspiring! Our town has been doing some street art murals that are super impressive, but those are just insanely gorgeous!

    • Beth Williams
      July 24, 2015 / 12:59 pm

      That’s awesome that your town has been involved with murals as well!

  6. July 22, 2015 / 7:15 am

    Haven’t heard of Pow Wow before but I would want to experience watching these artists in action. It must be really amazing to see their creations come to life!

    • Beth Williams
      July 24, 2015 / 12:58 pm

      It really was! They put so much heart into it.

  7. July 22, 2015 / 6:26 am

    I look for art everywhere, even in the streets in the form of graffiti. As for my favorite mural, I have to say that the one beside Fafi called out to me.

    • Beth Williams
      July 24, 2015 / 12:57 pm

      I’ll admit I didn’t so much before, but I do look out for murals and graffiti now!

  8. July 22, 2015 / 4:44 am

    Pow Wow is so WOW! Love all their creations. Hope to see all of them in person!

    • Beth Williams
      July 24, 2015 / 12:56 pm

      Haha, Pow Wow is indeed WOW! ;)

  9. July 21, 2015 / 10:46 pm

    I loved living in Long Beach, in the Belmont Shores area. It was years ago long before the Pow Wow. Now I just need to get back there to see all these.

    • Beth Williams
      July 24, 2015 / 12:56 pm

      That’s so cool! The Belmont Shores area was really nice, I’d love to live there. I bet this is quite shocking to you then to see that area change!

  10. July 21, 2015 / 9:20 pm

    Wow, what a fun movement! Looks like something I would like to get involved in!

    • Beth Williams
      July 24, 2015 / 12:55 pm

      I was happy to be involved this year, and hope to return for next year!

  11. July 21, 2015 / 7:47 pm

    I love this! It’s amazing how art can transform a neighborhood or even a whole city!

    • Beth Williams
      July 24, 2015 / 12:55 pm

      It really is powerful in a transformative way!

  12. July 21, 2015 / 6:18 pm

    Lovely, would love to attend Pow wow. Nice artwork!

    • Beth Williams
      July 24, 2015 / 12:53 pm

      The artwork was beautiful. If you ever have the chance to see one in your area, you should go.

  13. July 21, 2015 / 5:17 pm

    I have never heard of this before. How cool! You were lucky to see it in action!

    • Beth Williams
      July 24, 2015 / 12:53 pm

      It really gave me a new appreciate for street art. I had no idea graffiti was so difficult!

  14. July 21, 2015 / 4:32 pm

    Wow! << No pun intended. :)

    I visited Long Beach several times when I lived in LA and had no idea there was such an art scene there. Very cool. I love your photos!

    • Beth Williams
      July 24, 2015 / 12:52 pm

      Yeah, I had no idea that culture even existed there! Definitely makes me want to move out to California though. SoCal gives The Bay a run for it’s money :)

  15. Robin Rue (@massholemommy)
    July 21, 2015 / 2:45 pm

    That is a lovely movement. Around here, a pow wow is a ceremony that many of the local Indian tribes hold a few times a year.

    • Beth Williams
      July 24, 2015 / 12:52 pm

      Haha, that’s what a pow wow is around here too! I love their play on words though. :)