Friday, August 22, 2008

Youths band together in art project

BY ERIC LINDBERG
DAILY SOUND STAFF WRITER

They come from different backgrounds, different schools. Some are Dons, from Santa Barbara High School. Others attend San Marcos High, El Puente Community School or nearby universities. Many are likely tagged by community leaders as “at-risk.”
But none of that matters this week. Their history, their differences all fade into the background.

Their only focus is working together, dabbing paint onto huge sheets of wood as a colorful mural slowly takes shape.
“I have to cooperate with people and hear their ideas,” Luis Flores says. “It can’t just all be me.”
Flores has long been into art, working on murals at Casa de la Raza or his own pieces.
He wanted to take classes at the Visual Arts and Design Academy (VADA), a unique program at SBHS that melds college prep work with art and design instruction, but got into trouble and ended up at El Puente.
Now he’s thankful for the opportunity to participate in the mural project, something that is keeping him busy during the last week of summer.
“If we don’t have a place like this to do it, you know where it ends up,” he says.
Funded by the Collaborative Communities Foundation and spearheaded by Alejandra Gutierrez — a youth leader involved in a summer program aimed at keeping local teens busy — the mural project began on Monday and will wrap up today.
Organizers plan to install the artwork at Franklin Elementary School in the next few weeks. Yesterday, they put the finishing touches on the word “peace,” scrawled out along one section of the mural and balanced by “culture” along the other end.
Tomas Soto is another local teen who wants to get into VADA courses. The junior at SBHS took art freehand classes last year and helped design the overall layout of the mural.
“I just put in my own ideas,” he says, standing back and taking a look at the nearly finished product. “…It all goes together.”
Playing off themes of education, solidarity and women’s empowerment, the mural features a torch being held high, a woman flexing her arm and an eagle in flight — among other detailed images.
“It’s everyone’s ideas put together,” Victor Zuniga says.
The junior at CSU Northridge graduated from SBHS along with his brother, Carlos. Both participated in the art project this week.
“This is a new experience for me,” Zuniga says. “I usually just do my own stuff.”
He’s majoring in graphic design, switching out his major from business after it got too boring. Sketching out the initial design was his favorite part, watching as each person tossed out ideas and shaped the mural.
“Everyone gets their own idea and we had to keep changing it,” he says.
The significance of working together isn’t lost on the 12 participants. When asked what the overall image represents, Reynaldo Lopez says it reflects people coming together and pitching in to create something as a team.
“It’s an experience without a price,” Gutierrez says, adding that each student will get a certificate, a $100 stipend and the pride of having their name on the mural. “Nobody can ever take that away from them.”
Viridiana Lopez admits this week has been her first prolonged experience with mural art, but added that she would definitely be interested in working on more displays on the high school campus.
“It just gets hot,” she says, shielding her eyes from the sun overhead. “That’s the price you gotta pay.”
SBHS Assistant Principal Dave Meister, who dropped by the worksite to take a look at the mural-in-progress and snap a few quick photos, says there are definitely a number of empty walls around campus that could be decorated with artwork.
“There’s a lot of places that this could happen that would be a good use of these students’ energy,” he says.
Organizers hope to finish up a few final details today and have each artist sign their name. The mural could go up at Franklin Elementary as soon as next week.
In addition to those listed above, artists who worked on the mural are Zack Hernandez, Sergio Lopez, Alejandra Osornio, Christopher Ponchi, Jesus Uriarte, Joseph Vasquez and 10-year-old Elvis Lopez.
Artist Manuel Unzueta gave the group direction and advice, in addition to his expert touch. El Sitio and Los Tarascos donated food to the group for lunch, Gutierrez said, offering her heartfelt thanks to those who helped support the project.

1 comment:

Pablo Emmanuel Otaola said...

This is awesome! I love to see graffiti art. I love to see how something that is regarded as negative, non-useful and as destructive can be grasped as something beautiful.

I feel that graffiti artists should be embraced as they tell their story their way; the way they learned in their generation. There should be no reason that the youth of this generation are not allowed to express themselves and tell their stories through graffiti art. I know that there should be a respect for private property, but as the same time there seems to be no place to go. I think that there should be an outlet where artists can go and learn about this art form as well as where and how to practice it.

Just my humble opinion...