Art leads the way as KAABOO site evolves

Elle Streetart poses in front of her mural at the KAABOO site earlier this month. - Photos: Taneos Ramsay

Lauren Youngsmith had wanted to paint a lizard for some time. Inspired by Cayman, she finally did it earlier this month.

Ms. Youngsmith, of Los Angeles, is the paint-gun wielding muralist responsible for the towering image on the KAABOO Cayman festival site off of Esterley Tibbetts Highway, just north of the Kimpton Seafire resort. The painting is of a girl who sees herself reflected in a hand mirror as an otherworldly iguana.

“I think I’m going to call it ‘Lizard Soul,’” said Ms. Youngsmith, looking up at the five, stacked shipping containers on which she’d painted the mural.

She said she was inspired by the idea of people imbibing the souls of animals that surround them.

“I think everyone should have a space lizard as a soul,” she said with a smile.

The lizard mural is just one side of the stacked containers. There are several other, smaller configurations of containers nearby. All are painted. Some have swaths of marine-like colors that were painted by Amandalynn, the mononymous artist responsible for the KAABOO murals at Camana Bay, and who is curating the murals for the festival grounds. She called her Cayman-flavored decorative designs “Amanda’s oceanic phase.”

Work by a third muralist, who goes by the name Elle Streetart, is on the backside of a two-high group of four containers and is not visible from the street.

KAABOO mural artists Elle Streetart, Lauren Youngsmith and Amandalynn at the KAABOO grounds in mid-December. – Photo: Taneos Ramsay

The colorful blocks are not only a continuation of the mural tradition that is part of KAABOO’s Del Mar festival near San Diego, but they have a functional aspect as well. All of the containers are positioned to help mitigate the sound of the two concert stages that will be blasting music by such acts as Duran Duran, Bryan Adams and the Chainsmokers during the two-day event, Feb. 15-16, that is expected to draw more than 10,000 people each day.

“It’s a hybrid of aesthetic and science,” Jason Felts, KAABOO’s chief brand officer, said of the containers.

One of the containers, which has doors on both sides that open out, will also be used to house the art exhibit that is part of the event.

Mr. Felts said after the festival, he’s hoping the painted cargo boxes will eventually serve as emissaries for the event and for the Cayman Islands.

“They’re designed in a way that when they’re broken apart, they’re still pleasing,” Mr. Felts said.

He said he’s hoping local businesses might buy them for use or that they could even return to their previous function and travel the world as small KAABOO billboards.

“They’ll end up where they end up, with Cayman on the side of them,” he said. “Can you imagine seeing that on the side of a ship?”

Each year, he said, he expects to bring in new containers to be painted by new artists.

Murals on display from a vantage point under the Esterley Tibbetts Highway bridge.

All three women artists said they incorporated Cayman elements into their murals. For Elle Streetart, it was the island’s flora and underwater fauna.

“I’m always inspired by coral,” she said. “I thought it was important to bring in the colors and make it really vibrant for the concert.”

In the center of her collage-style mural is a woman’s face constructed with rectangles of various ethnicities. The portrait is flanked by a colorful mix of leaves, flowers and hints of coral.

The containers are the most visible part of the transformation of the festival grounds to date. Mr. Felts said progress in turning a swath of wetlands into lawns and walkways dotted with palm trees has gone smoothly. He was nearly giddy in his excitement about showing off the venue as workers and heavy equipment continued the transformation.

At one point, Mr. Felts stood below two long, raised metal-frame structures that will be viewing platforms for premium ticket holders. Cabanas will be put up along the length of the platforms. While the concrete pad supporting the structures is permanent, the presence of the platforms is not. They will disappear after the festival.

“The site has the ability to come to life and go to sleep,” he said.

He pointed to a new corrugated metal roof on the Tiki Beach structure nearby. The renovated site will be the home of “BASK” during the festival, a DJ-oriented day and nightclub that requires an additional ticket for admission.

A series of cabanas will be pitched north of the building, where premium ticket holders can relax away from the crowds.

In the coming weeks, two performing stages and the air-conditioned tent that will serve as the event’s comedy club, will be erected. Closer to the performance dates, some large canvases will be erected. Amandalynn said other artists will paint those canvases while the music plays, adding to the art already on display.

“The more art, the better,” she said.