Meet artist and street muralist Robert Vargas. He partnered with Starbucks to create an LGBTQ mural inside the West Hollywood location (known to locals at The Big Gay Starbucks) at 8595 Santa Monica Boulevard. The permanent art installation titled “Nothing Less Than Full Equality” was unveiled today.
Mayor of West Hollywood Lindsey Horvath presented the muralist with a City Proclamation recognizing his work as an artist. Horvath was joined by council members Sepi Shyne, John Erickson and Lauren Meister.
In an interview with WEHO TIMES, Vargas speaks of his history with the City of West Hollywood and his inspiration for the new mural, which he hopes will spread love and support for the LGBTQ community.
Where are you from?
I was born and raised here in Los Angeles. This is home.
What’s your history with the City of West Hollywood?
I love the City of West Hollywood. I have history here. I’ve shown at the PDC many times. I’ve had several shows there. Earlier this year, in January I created a mural at Guitar Center Hollywood. It’s further east, but this is the first mural I can say is West of Fairfax. I always wanted to create something unique here.
What can you tell us about the genesis of this mural?
This piece is my third collaboration with Starbucks. Each piece is very site specific. I couldn’t have been more pleased than to be asked to create a mural at this iconic West Hollywood location.
Did you plan this for Pride?
It just so happens to be Pride Month. As soon we had a date, I knew that I wanted something that was all about spreading love and support for the LGBTQ community. This piece is titled ‘Nothing Less Than Full Equality.’
What was your inspiration?
It incorporates people from the community in the piece. For example, the woman on the right I met literally before I was going to start the mural. I was just crossing the street and we met right in the middle of the street, and I said, ‘I have to paint you.’ She was my classic muse. The band across the eyes is what unifies everyone, and the person in the middle kind of represents the trans community. He’s actually the same person, but on top, he is in drag. I wanted to utilize the colors of the rainbow, but not in such a schematic way. It’s there, but it’s not so obvious.
Does Starbucks give you free reign to create what you want?
You know what, Starbucks is really great about letting me have creative freedom, which is really rare with a huge company. They gave me the location. Once I digested it, I came up with the concept. I actually didn’t even present the concept to them until the day before I started. They’ve been great about partnering with me. I have a track record in that what I do is in good faith. They’re pleased.
How long does a mural like this take?
24 hours. I did this in one day.
What was it like getting a Proclamation from the Mayor of West Hollywood?
It was amazing. Lindsey [Horvath] came through and completely surprised me with the Proclamation from the City of West Hollywood to commemorate this day. I was thrilled to be able to accept that. We have some plans for some future projects in the community.
What are the plus and minuses of having a mural indoors, versus outdoors?
Oh, right off the bat, you’re not dealing with weather. You’re not dealing with the sun or the paint drying on the brush and everything that comes with that. I do love creating an outdoor public setting just because I’m all about accessibility, but it was nice for a change to paint this indoors. It will be preserved for generations to come.
So this is a permanent installation?
Yes, it is. And this is such an iconic location. It’s been around for like 25 years I’m told. I think they had an idea of creating something for this wall. It just so happened that we came together and we seem like a perfect fit.
What kind of feedback are you getting?
It’s been all positive. Everyone in the LGBT community has been really supportive. It means a lot to hear their input and to listen to their emotions and responses. It’s been all positive.
How do people find you on social media?
My Instagram is @therobertvargas. That’s the best way to see what I’m up to.