Local Artists Beautify Community Fridges as COVID-19 Continues

An open small refrigerator door with "Cheetah" in orange logo. The fridge has bread, juice, and eggs.
An image of a community fridge from Cheetah.

Since the start of the pandemic, the Bay Area has banded together in a multitude of ways to support the most critical needs of our community. Cheetah, the first restaurant supply app, is launching a food giving movement that will  provide more food access as COVID continues. The company is launching a social impact effort that will put community fridges across the area stocked with fresh food. The locations of the first two fridges can be found in Oakland at 722 Washington street and in San Jose at 2008 Kammerer Ave. Similar to Town Fridge, this effort is helping to expand food access and build community. However, these fridges feature eye-catching artwork, and the food will be directly supplied by Cheetah. 

Thus far, two locally based artists have joined in to help boost the movement by beautifying the set of fridges. 

“Overnight, restaurants had to shut down…this has also had a huge impact on Cheetah as a restaurant supplier,” said CEO & Founder Na’ama Moran. As a response, the company has expanded to now service both restaurants and consumers who want to purchase supplies and groceries in bulk. The company has turned their trucks into mobile fulfillment centers that are stationed all around the Bay. Since it launched to consumers in mid-March, customers can simply choose a time slot and pickup location from the app, drive up to a mobile fulfillment center and have their orders packed right into their vehicles. “We have had to expand our vision from helping restaurants thrive to helping our community thrive,” Moran said.  

Up until now, the company would usually donate to food banks and nonprofit organizations. The community fridges will be the first time Cheetah is directly providing food to individuals and families and will be replenished multiple times per week. “Putting art on the fridges is in hopes to cheer people up and bring some happiness as we are still in very uncertain times,” Moran said.  Each of the fridges will feature QR codes that can be scanned to learn more about this social impact effort.  

Thus far, two artists have been chosen to beautify to fridges for the launching of the pilot program. 

Juan Lopez, an Oakland based artist and Kristine Brandt a San Francisco based artist have used their unique mediums to partner with Cheetah in turning these community fridges into living art pieces.  

Juan Lopez

A male artist in a ponytail puts on mosaics on a trash can in Oakland.
Juan Lopez.

“I think it’s a brilliant idea and I’m happy that they called me,” Lopez said. He has been active in Oakland for the last eight years. He is best known for his mosaic work on trash cans across the city and has done close to 150 of them throughout the years. Lopez has worked on larger scale public art pieces and his art can be found all across Oakland. “The trash can project is near and dear to my heart because I get so much great feedback and I can see the impact that it has on the community,” he said.  

For a very young age, Lopez was doing tile work in his hometown of Sante Fe, New Mexico. Similar to the trashcan project, what aligns for Lopez is the opportunity to “create a sense of place.” He realized that his art had social impact right away. “When you put the art on everyday objects, they really get used more because people see them,” Lopez said. Similar to the trash cans, he believes that the movement will build momentum on its own.  Projects like this, Lopez says “deters graffiti, creates pride in the community, and gives people a sense of ownership.”

Lopez credits tile setting in helping him develop his eye and form. His artistry is also inspired by  experience in making indigenous regalia. Although he has been working with mosaics for a long time, he never related to it in the same way he does now.  “California – the people, the weather, the policy, the mentality, have made it so that I’ve been fortunate to find this niche that nurtures this kind of art,” Lopez said.  You can find more of his projects at NewWorldMosiacs.  

Kristine Brandt

an artist in a ponytail works on a black and white drawing.
Kristine Brandt.

Brandt is a multidisciplinary artist originally from Alameda. Her focuses include painting, murals and sculpture. “I like working with my hands, it just feels more organic to me,” said Brandt. Her journey as an artist started from a young age where she was fortunate to be in spaces that encouraged her creativity. Brandi studied at both the Academy of Art in San Francisco and the Florence Academy of Art in Italy.  Florence allowed her to study a more traditional approach to fine art but both cities (San Francisco and Florence) foster a deep sense of diversity that allowed her to “just live”. Eating cheese and wine and painting all day…it was a dream,” said Brandt.  Florence allowed her to meet artists from all over the world and at very different stages in their careers. “That was the mecca, that was where I needed to be to understand my place as an artist,” said Brandt. 

In terms of partnering with Cheetah, “I didn’t realize until I was there, painting on a fridge, did I realize that this could have an impact,” said Brandt.  She recalls an earlier project with ArtSpan’s Transit Center Mural Project where she and other muralists covered 10,052 square feet of  the Salesforce Transit Center’s ground level storefront windows. Brandt created a mural that illustrated the word hello in various languages.

“If I am doing a project where people are going to see it, I make sure to incorporate some kind of engagement,” Brandt said. For her, the sentiment of public art is that it “creates a form of unity.” Even though people might have their individual interpretations, it is viewed as a whole. “With social media shifting our perceptions, public art forces us to engage with what is real, Brandt said, “and especially during this time, the need for public art is more significant.” She explains that this was perfectly captured when Oakland became an art gallery overnight in response to the Black Lives Matter protests. People chose this medium to spark conversation and dialogue. “This stimulated all the free thinking and creativity they allowed them to say whatever they wanted to say,” Brandt said. You can follow Brandt, keep up with her latest happenings, and view all of her work on her website

Cheetah is hoping that all more organizations, businesses and everyone in between will be inspired to  contribute to this social impact effort. You can follow the #foodgivingmovement on Instagram at @gocheetah and all are encouraged to get in touch at https://www.gocheetah.com/foodgiving/# 

A side of a community fridge that says "We Love The Town"
A refrigerator decorated by an artist.

About Iris Crawford

Iris M. Crawford, is a poet and social justice advocate. Hailing from New York City, she is a first-generation Guyanese- American. Her journey has allowed her to empower communities through health care advocacy, education and environmental justice. In 2018, Iris was selected as a semi-finalist Fulbright Scholar for an English Teaching Assistantship in South Africa. She also just became a resident of the 2020 Shuffle Collective Literary Arts Residency where she will be working to strengthen her creative work, gain skills to continue growing professionally and build community. She earned her BA in Political Philosophy and African American Studies from Syracuse University. View all posts by Iris Crawford →

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