By Elaine Tran, Internal Communications Specialist

On Wednesday, December 16, in the Bus Transportation building on the premises of the SamTrans North Base bus yard, there was a buzz of anticipation as a small team from management, coupled with the administrative staff, assembled across the wall covering eagerly awaiting the unveiling of the mural painted by artist and Bus Operator Kalief Porter-Brown.

Assistant Manager of Bus Transportation Kris Longa kicked off the intimate event by welcoming everyone in attendance and briefly provided his insights for the need to have the mural created. The primary goal was to enhance the display of photos of all 13 Bus Operators who are internally nominated and selected as Operator of the Month and ultimately the year-end Operator of the Year.  Together both Kris and Kalief pulled off the wrap to reveal a visually stunning work of art, which according to Kalief, was the largest mural he has ever worked on. Following the reveal, Director of Bus Transportation Ana Rivas acknowledged Kalief for his artistic talent and read a statement submitted by SamTrans’ Chief Operating Officer David Olmeda who echoed his team’s sentiment by stating that, “…despite this being a challenging year, let’s celebrate the generosity and creativeness of one of our very talented employees” and went on to note that, “…this mural represents all that is good in our lives and is comprised of the individuals who make our SamTrans family and workplace meaningful and special.”

Kris concluded the event by noting that South Base Bus Transportation in San Carlos has requested Kalief to paint a wall mural specific to their location. He also revealed the surprising news that Kalief was selected as Operator of the Month for November 2020.

Bringing the Mural to Life

The inspiration behind the theme for the wall mural was based on a photo Kris had taken of a SamTrans bus on the road with the South Francisco Hillside Sign in the background, which spells out “SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO THE INDUSTRIAL CITY” in white-painted concrete letters and is visible along northbound US 101.  Given this historic sign serves as a landmark on the way to North Base, this reaffirmed what the overall look and feel should be.

When it came time to bring this photo to life, Kris recalled reading a profile piece on Kalief and his background as an artist in the employee newsletter SamTimes. Kris reached out to Kalief to see if he would be interested to partake in this creative project and Kalief agreed to come aboard. 

To start Kalief sketched out a couple of initial concepts on paper. Once Kris and Kalief agreed what should be included within the mural, Kalief set out to produce the mural within a concealed space so that his painting would remain incognito until the day of the unveiling. Overall from outlining the entire mural by hand to painting the interior wall took about 10 days to complete.

A Surreal Experience

As evident by the wall mural, the avant-garde art movement of Surrealism influences Kalief’s abstract artistry as he admires the works of Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso and Diego Rivera.

In devising how to incorporate the American flag into his painting, Kalief credits his wife for making the suggestion to combine elements of the flag as part of the sky.  Additionally Kalief enjoyed playing with various shapes to define the road.  If you are to look at the mural up close, there is even a hidden Easter egg that is a portrait of Ana Rivas.

On Instagram, you can follow and view more of Kalief’s artwork @artbyleaf_49.


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