Photos: UCSC tanks artwork

Art documents time for mountain bikers that pass by the UC tanks

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By Kyle Maxwell aka ‘kmax’

Update: April 22, 2020

Five weeks after the Santa Cruz and SF Bay Area were put in ‘Shelter In Place’ Covid-19 pandemic restrictions, the local population, like the rest of the world has experienced the loss of life, loss of income, and hardship. Local resident and rider Kyle Maxwell put his thoughts into action the best way he knew how. Hear his words about this creation:

“Nestled not that deep in the UC Santa Cruz campus is these old abandoned water tanks. Once used to protect the campus from wildfire, they now serve as a meeting spot, resting place, meditation center, snack shack, bar, and dance floor. Over the years, these tanks have served as a canvas to countless works of art. From mindless tags, to well established and now timeless creations.

I put these tanks on my hit list 10 years ago, being the most local place I ride, an icon of mountain biking in the Santa Cruz area. The universe hinted that it finally came time for me to step up and take my turn behind the aerosol pressure cooker. I’ve never done any work like this, but artists are defined by the ability to adapt and execute. So there I began one evening at a time, carving way at color and depth. A few hiccups of random taggers later, I was able to seal the deal tonight. Happy to see it in its final form for a minute. Soon, it will evolve and eventually be gone. Replaced by something different and meaningful. Because, if we know anything these days, this too shall pass.”

Chido has been making an appearance in the tank art in the last decade.

And Chido, the tanks dog mysteriously appeared a day after the art was completed. Here’s Kyle’s reaction when he saw it.

“Okay, so this makes me super emotional. over the past few years, as these tanks have evolved in art, there has been one constant: this little doggy. Whenever someone reskins these tanks, not long after, this little dude shows up. I was painting these tanks two days ago, so this was done yesterday. And it’s absolutely perfect. Hug your doggies. Because someone dearly misses theirs.”

— Kyle Maxwell

In this season of transition, we give you UC Tank art that ushers in the new creative while paying homage to the old. The trusty dog is there to shepherd the transformation.

Update: Oct 23, 2018

Fall is here and the UCSC tank art is slowly getting transformed into a new design. The dog showed up last week thus hinting that change is near and the transformation started before the weekend.

We are particularly fond of this one since it blends the previous masterpiece perfectly with art that speaks of transformation. We’re happy if it stayed in this state through the winter but we know that there’s no predicting whether this will stay in this state for days or months.

So get out there to those trails and witness this phase of the tank art regeneration.

Jeremiah Kille – August 2018

Update: Aug 17, 2018

WOAH! Some established artists have taken over the UC tanks and the work has been breathtaking. The latest is by artist Jeremiah Kille, a mural artist specializing in geometric shapes. The art appeared on August 15 and riders have been compelled to stop their rad rides and take it in. Other works of Jeremiah can be seen here on his instagram.

A new trend now though is the short duration of the art and abrupt changeover. Some art lasts only a week and before the tanks are blanked out and changed forever. So one must get out there often to experience it first hand.

This one with birds and donut was a gem.

The donut became a transition point for this art by an artist known for this bird theme. It transitioned very well with the donut tank. Sadly this art was gone after a couple weeks and very few got to see it in person.

July 16 saw the appearance of the very popular donut

This was a popular one not only because of the vibrant colors but because of that donut. I mean how can you feel gloomy after seeing that art?

The latest art features a cohesive landscape with water, land and sky

The latest art features a cohesive landscape with water, land and sky

Update: Aug 17, 2017

We are excited to present the latest UCSC tank art born on Sept 13. This is a throwback to the good old days when the tanks stood for art, devoid of any social and political statements. This new creation simply celebrates creativity. Each tank art can stand on its own and create a strong visual statement. But together, it is a more powerful entity.

This one too will be pass and be covered eventually so enjoy it while you can.

This transitional art shows the right tank evolving.

This transitional art shows the right tank evolving.

August 2017 shows the right tank evolving and a little bit of modification on the breast art. It’s a bit of jumbled mess which is part of the life cycle of the UC tank art.

Nov, 2014

Click HERE to view the collection of tank art over the last 20 years


  • Kirk Pacenti says:

    One of my favorite places in the world to ride!

  • Robert Mann says:

    One of my greatest wishes for the tanks is that they would fill one of them with potable water. How great would that be to be able to fill up right there?

    • Francis Cebedo says:

      potable water… no. How can we even trust that with those antique tanks. The vehicles are only a couple miles away and the dorms are actually really close.

  • EpicAndy says:

    At first, I saw the photo of all the butt cheeks, and I was sure it was a portrait of the ASS. Alas, no. He was likely somewhere MUCH cooler, as always.

  • Cole Trickle says:

    What’s behind the tanks? The photos aren’t hi-res enough, but I see what looks like trails back there.

  • Doug Mann says:

    That’s some fine work, thanks. I was up there a few days ago admiring the new art, but at the same time I was thinking of the dog (Chido?) that’s usually included. I seem to remember that his owner was an Aptos artist that does a lot of the tank art. The puppy is the perfect addition!

  • Julie Kanagy says:

    Hey Kyle, I’m so glad you did this! It looks fantastic. Did you also design the Spokesman Bikes kit that has that night sky motif? I loved the resemblance, even if unintentional.

  • Henry says:

    Beautiful, inspiring, creative and evolutionary art. Nice to know there’s some continuity during these times.

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