Artist Rich Walker's "Man in the Yard" isn't nearly as epic and engaging as, say, the famed "Cloud Gate" public-art sculpture in Chicago's Millennium Park. It's just a simple, fun and interactive art project, but it's definitely grown to be an important part of the public landscape over the years—at least in the tight-knit community of Ocean Beach.
The Man in the Yard, who also goes by the name Obie, sits in front of Walker's rental home in OB across the street from an elementary school and public park. The big guy holds a sign in his hands and, every few days, Walker paints over it and changes the sign's statement. People in Ocean Beach have come to know and love the Man in the Yard and his ever-changing messages. On a daily basis, Walker says he sees people stopping to snap a photo or make a comment.
"Matter of a fact," Walker said, peering out his screen door, "someone's taking a picture of it right now. That always happens."
Walker built his Man in the Yard three years ago for a CityBeat shindig. It was constructed from reclaimed wood and, initially anyway, was meant to raise awareness for homeless teens. The sign the man held read "Will work for peace."
After the party, Walker didn't have a place to store the guy so he put him in his front yard. He started changing the messages for fun and got so much positive feedback that he kept it going. These days, Man in the Yard has his own Facebook page. Every time Walker changes the sign, he tries to remember to snap a photo and upload it to the page.
At one point, a friend of Walker's came by and asked if her daughter's kindergarten class could come up with the words for the sign. She dropped off a list of 30 kids' names and 30 words and Walker changed out the message every few days.
"The kids got really excited to see their words up there," Walker said. "They'd come by and point it out to their parents."
Walker, a prolific painter who's almost completely filled his current home with his paintings and mixed-media works, is looking to move into a bigger, live/work warehouse up north. He's got several ideas for the future of his Man in the Yard, but nothing solid yet. He'd prefer to see the Man in the Yard stay somewhere in Ocean Beach, but he's not sure if that's possible.
Until Walker moves, his Man in the Yard will continue to have a home in his front yard. Old Obie even recently scored a spot in the upcoming Ocean Beach Holiday Parade on Saturday, Dec. 3.