LONG BEACH, Calif. – Armed with only a spray can, artist Nuria Ortiz, known as “Ms. Yellow,” is taking on the boarded-up buildings of Long Beach and making them beautiful.
She says she’s “just basically trying to turn a depressing situation into something that’s a little more positive, trying to have that cup half full mentality.”
Boarded up buildings became a common site amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which is one of the reasons the Long Beach Mayor and City Council reached out to the Arts Council for Long Beach. Together they launched "COVID Coverup," a program to not only beautify boarded-up buildings, but to uplift the community.
This is one of several city-wide projects Ortiz has been involved in.
For her, art is a passion she inherited from her father, also an artist, who began his career in Mexico.
“I think it’s just in my blood to be honest and he’s the one that I would tell when I was little, 'teach me, teach me, teach me,'” she said.
Her artwork is now showcased around the world, her adopted name, a tribute to the color that began her obsession with colors in general, and . . . a nod to one of her favorite filmmakers.
"In high school, me and my friend were really obsessed with Quentin Tarantino, so hence, Reservoir Dogs. They had a bunch of characters with Mr. Blond, Mr. Pink, so my friend Candice was Ms. Green," Ortiz said. "I was Ms. Yellow, and I’ve had that name ever since. People still call me that.”
Her latest artwork is called “We Got This.” It depicts a woman on a colorful bird.
“Basically a girl kind of flying away, but it’s like she’s maintaining her composure, she’s maintaining her sanity and I think that in a time like this, I think it’s really important that we have to maintain our mental health,” said Ortiz.
It’s a mural she hopes will offer inspiration and a sense of comfort during this pandemic.