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Monday, January 21 , 2019, 5:03 pm | Fair 62º


Alliance Hopes Murals Reflect a Change of Art

By bringing Santa Barbara's east and west sides together, project aims to paint a bigger picture

A building once plagued with graffiti is now the canvas for several beautiful murals at Eastside Neighborhood Park & Yanonali Gardens. Dozens of people gathered there Friday to celebrate the artwork, as well as the artists.

The murals were painted by 22 young people, ranging in age from 14 to 21, as a part of a four-month art program sponsored by the Santa Barbara Arts Alliance and the Santa Barbara Parks & Recreation Department. In addition to the murals at the park, located at Soledad and Yanonali streets near Franklin School, the group has finished another series of murals at the Westside Girls and Boys Club, which will be dedicated in April or early May, said Ricardo Venegas, a main force behind the project. Venegas works with the Franklin Neighborhood Center and is also a community services coordinator for the city.

One of the project’s goals was to engage youth in erasing “the mentality of the Eastside versus the Westside,” Venegas said. In the beginning, he said, the group experienced some opposition, but as people from each faction grew accustomed to seeing the group engaged in the service projects, things became much easier.

Ernesto Valle was one of the artists and has been involved with the program about a year. He said having a project, like a mural painting, has kept him out of trouble.

In addition to painting, the Santa Barbara Arts Alliance also provided the young people training in graphic design, silkscreen and photography, and those pieces were on display at the park Friday. The project was funded through a grant from the Santa Barbara Foundation and through the Orfalea Fund.

“The neighborhood expressed a need for an arts program,” said Ana Soto, a Franklin Center board member. Out of those comments, the committee came up with the idea to “ask the kids that hang around to help. It gave them an opportunity to give back,” she said.

Officials hope the cooperation on display in one art project has sown the seeds of collaboration for others.
Officials hope the cooperation on display in one art project has sown the seeds of collaboration for others. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

Mayor Marty Blum was present at the dedication and thanked the group for its work.

“It’s just beautiful,” she said. “If you can do this here, just think of what you can do throughout the rest of the city.”

City Councilman Grant House was also at the event and said he was encouraged that the project included kids from the east and west sides.

Venegas was optimistic about the progress of the program and upbeat about the dedication of the Westside mural in a few weeks.

“We can safely say that, if we keep this up in small steps, we can erase these confrontational attitudes,” he said.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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