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ESTRIA, also Todd Johnson, (born in Hawaii) is a graffiti artist and muralist based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Early life and education[edit]

Todd Johnson, better known as "Estria"[1] has been spray painting since 1984. He moved to San Francisco in the early 1980s for college, where he attended both the University of San Francisco and the Academy of Art in San Francisco for a BFA in Illustration.


In 1994, he was arrested for graffiti and appeared on CNN, the National Enquirer, the San Francisco Chronicle and The San Francisco Examiner. The coverage served as a platform for him to speak on graffiti's social and political impact, which he had already been doing as a lecturer at different universities.[2]

His work as an educator, activist, and entrepreneur shaped him to spearhead several organizations and businesses. In 2002, he founded Oakland-based Tumis Design, a company that develops graphic communications and web applications for non-profits and foundations. He founded Samurai Graphix in 2007, a custom screen-printing company in neighboring San Leandro, serving Oakland's public school needs.[3]

Community involvement / political activism[edit]

Estria co-founded Visual Element, Oakland's EastSide Arts Alliance's free mural workshop, in 2000. Visual Element targets at-risk youth and develops them into using their artistic skills.[4] He also currently volunteers with 808 Urban, developing youth mural workshops in Honolulu, as a positive alternative to drugs and violence. On September 18, 2010, Estria and Jeremy LaTrasse co-founded The Estria Foundation which is committed to raising the “social consciousness on human and environmental issues” [5] and launched the Water Writes initiative.[6]

Estria co-founded and created the foundation in hopes to create art that “speaks truth to power.” He does this in various ways whether this be by festivals, exploring new pieces, and so much more. He focuses his work on Hawaiian students to dive deeper into culture, education, and ancestry. Estria’s organization also has students work on big murals relating to hawaiian tradition through lyrics or mele, the exploration of a place through stories.


According to the Estria Foundation website, the primary goal of the Water Writes project was to raise awareness of water crises around the world. Murals were created in collaboration with local schools and communities. “The Water Writes mural series ended in 2014 with twelve domestic and international cities painted with large scale murals.”[7]

The third mural in that series, Ola Ka Wai, Ola Ka Honua (As the Water Lives, the Earth Thrives) was completed in 2011. It is located in the Kapalama community in downtown Honolulu.[8] It measures two stories high and almost two hundred feet long. [4] The mural is anchored by a portrait of Hawaii’s last ruling monarch, Queen Liliʻuokalani.[9] This reflects the native Hawaiian’s resistance to the colonization of their sovereign nation and the loyalty and respect they have for her.[10] On the right side of the mural the land is represented as it was naturally and on the left side it is depicted as it could be if restored through responsible stewardship.[9] Murals like this one have served to draw attention to the importance of environmental responsibility. They also draw communities together for a cause and serve as effective educational devices.[11]

Aside from his big murals, he also runs a company called Samurai Graphix that creates stencils of famous people and is later beneficial for non profits or other causes.

Estria Invitational Graffiti Battle[edit]

In 2007, Estria co-founded the Estria Invitational Graffiti Battle, a nationwide urban art competition that honors and advances creativity in the hip hop arts. He selects the contestants and judges, creates the activities for each city, builds vision, and finds and selects partners. The concept behind every battle is positive messaging, pushing graffiti artists to concentrate on the intent and meaning behind their work. Another force behind the battle is to encourage groups typically marginalized from graffiti culture, specifically women, to compete in painting and in judging.[4]



  1. ^ "About the Estria Foundation". Estria Foundation. May 14, 2020. Retrieved May 15, 2020.
  2. ^ [1] Archived October 14, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ Swan, Rachel. "The Pecha Kucha PowerPoint Party | Events | Oakland, Berkeley & Bay Area". Retrieved 2011-08-19.
  4. ^ a b [2] Archived February 26, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ "About the Estria Foundation". Estria Foundation. May 14, 2020. Retrieved May 14, 2020.
  6. ^ "About Estria". Estria. May 14, 2020. Retrieved May 14, 2020.
  7. ^ "Our History". Estria Foundation. Retrieved May 14, 2020.
  8. ^ "Honolulu, Hawaii". Estria Foundation. Retrieved May 14, 2020.
  9. ^ a b Tamaira, A Mārata Ketekiri (2017). "Walls of Empowerment: Reading Public Murals in a Kanaka Maoli Context". The Contemporary Pacific. 29 (1): 1–35. doi:10.1353/cp.2017.0001. hdl:10125/53881. ISSN 1527-9464.
  10. ^ Silva, Noenoe K. (2007). Aloha betrayed : native Hawaiian resistance to American colonialism. Duke University Press. ISBN 978-0-8223-3349-4. OCLC 838903287.
  11. ^ Yukawa, Joyce; Harada, Violet H. (2009-06-14). "Librarian-Teacher Partnerships for Inquiry Learning: Measures of Effectiveness for a Practice-Based Model of Professional Development". Evidence Based Library and Information Practice. 4 (2): 97. doi:10.18438/b8gg7k. ISSN 1715-720X.

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