A collaboration between the Downtown Long Beach Alliance (DLBA) and artist LaJon Miller has yielded a gorgeous mural and improved lighting in the Waite Court alleyway between Third Street and Broadway.

Although alleys are not a part of DLBA’s contracted duties, their beautification and safety improvements align with a major goal of the organization’s Strategic Plan to activate key Downtown locations with art, music, culturally responsive placemaking, and physical place enhancement which, in this case, includes new lighting for increased safety.

“We evaluated six alleys throughout Downtown,” said DLBA Placemaking Manager Stephanie Gonzalez. “We chose to activate Waite Court because it’s a high foot traffic area and its cleanliness and safety were in question.”

The Waite Court activation project was developed through DLBA’s Placemaking Programming Committee, which took on the effort during the 2021-22 fiscal year which ended in September. Programming Committee members meet monthly to work on projects directly related to DLBA’s Strategic Plan.

Once public space activation funds were secured, DLBA began looking for an artist who could create a colorful artwork that would enhance Downtown.

After scouring the Arts Council of Long Beach’s extensive catalog of artists, DLBA’s Placemaking Committee voted to give LaJon Miller the project. “LaJon is an amazing artist, and our decision was also influenced by the fact that he lives right next to Waite Court and walks through it daily,” said Gonzalez.

Miller certainly answered the call; His three-paneled mural of Koi fish in a lily pond has brought color and vitality to a place that was dark and foreboding.

“My idea behind this mural is to illustrate a serene and calm vibe,” Miller explained. “I am a big fan of Koi fish and I enjoy the calmness and peacefulness that sitting next to a Koi pond can bring. And since the closest public space to view Koi fish swimming is the Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden at CSULB, I thought it would be cool to bring that vibe to the Downtown area.”

The mural was painted in three alcoves that appear to be windows which were bricked up long ago. Solar powered lights mounted in the top of each alcove serve the dual function of providing safety and adding visual impact to the artwork. Solar powered string lights help guide the way for alleyway pedestrians.

Next time you’re on Broadway in Downtown, headed for the Promenade or perhaps a Taco Tuesday stop at Leo’s Mexican Grill, be sure to get a look at Miller’s new Waite Court work of art. It’s quite stunning — especially at night!