Rachel Wolfe-Goldsmith Is Imagining the Future of Murals

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Artist Rachel Wolfe-Goldsmith sits inside of the 5th Floor Gallery space in the Oakland Tribune Tower, looking toward the camera wearing a brown jumpsuit and long braids.
A portrait of an artist: Rachel Wolfe-Goldsmith.  (Pendarvis Harshaw)

On a vacant floor of Oakland's Tribune Tower, I stood in front of a mural of turfing legend Ice Cold 3000. In a series of freeze frames, he gigged across the wall, becoming more digitized and pixelated with each progressive painting.

"I was really asking myself the question of how to create that kind of transition to move from the physical body into this digital body," says muralist Rachel Wolfe-Goldsmith.

And that's not the only thing that went digital in the show.

Wolfe-Goldsmith teamed up with a handful of artists (Jet Martinez, Vogue TDK, Joshua Mays, Bud Snow, Yoram Savion, and Brandon Ruffin aka Ruff Draft) to create the 5th Story NFT art gallery, where murals were adapted into augmented reality by Black Terminus Labs. They are also converting the art into three dimensional pieces on the blockchain network that will be sold as NFTs. This will allow the creators to have more control over the revenue generated from their work.

"I mean, what we're really asking is just like how do muralists fit into the NFT space. Because a lot of people using it are already 3D designers or digital artists of some kind. And we specialize in, like, an analog style of art. But how do we bring that to the digital space?" says Wolfe-Goldsmith.

Wolf-Goldsmith also serves as the Creative Director of the Bay Area Mural Program. She's the talented muralist behind some of the largest new pieces of public artwork in Oakland, including the two-story mural of the women of the Black Panther Party in West Oakland, and the huge mural of Stoney Creation and Yanni Brump on Telegraph and 17th Avenue. You can also see her "Our Moment" piece, which depicts an African American woman dancing (inspired by the image of Kendra “K.O” Oyesanya) on the side of the Oakland Tribune Tower.

Rachel Wolfe-Goldsmith stands in front of the Tribune Tower in Oakland, which features her large colorful mural of an African American woman dancing
Rachel Wolfe-Goldsmith stands in front of the Tribune Tower in Oakland, which features her large colorful mural of an African American woman dancing (Pendarvis Harshaw)

But her latest project inside of the building is one she hopes will change the future of murals and hopefully bring more stability into the livelihood of muralists.

"Most people never get to collect our works because they just live on this wall. Maybe you make a limited edition print of it or something, this would almost be like that limited edition print. And I think part of it, too, is the idea of collectibles. [The art] gains value over time. So you are also collecting something that you believe will create wealth for you."

This week on the podcast we discuss Wolfe-Goldsmith's background, how she's made ends meet, her approach to art making and the future of moving murals from walls to the digital realm.

Rightnowish is an arts and culture podcast produced at KQED. Listen to it wherever you get your podcasts or click the play button at the top of this page and subscribe to the show on NPR One, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, TuneIn, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts.