Friday, March 23 , 2018, 12:20 am | Light Rain Fog/Mist 57º


East and West Sides Find Common Cause in Works of Art

Latest mural dedication completes project aimed at channeling youth creativity to team work

A beautiful sequel was unveiled Friday, when members of the public checked out a series of murals painted by a local artist and a group of young people from Santa Barbara’s east and west sides.

The murals, painted near the entrance of the Westside Boys & Girls Club, 602 W. Anapamu St., were presented a few months after several similar murals were completed on a building at Eastside Community Park & Yanonali Gardens, at Soledad and Yanonali streets near Franklin School, by the same group. There, 22 young people, ranging in age from 14 to 21, had a hand in the project, as part of a four-month art program sponsored by the Santa Barbara Arts Alliance and the Santa Barbara Parks & Recreation Department.

The result of that mural has been a huge success, said Ricardo Venegas, who spearheaded the project and is a community services coordinator for the city. Promoting understanding and mixing up the groups from both sides of town has been key, he said.

The building had been plagued with graffiti until that point, he said, and had to be repainted often, sometimes as often as twice a month.

A fresh start for the exterior of the Westside club is under way, however, and athletic director Bernard Hicks said the mural has been up for several months and hasn’t been tagged — a victory in itself. “In our neighborhood, we have a lot of issues that we need to deal with,” Hicks said.

Walls and dumpsters at the club have been vandalized in the past. Club workers have even had their cars tagged outside of the club. Hicks said that one time, the club’s dumpster had been tagged particularly badly, by an Eastside gang. “Before the police showed up, the Westsiders had come and tried to mark it out,” he said.

“This is just so beautiful,” he said, looking at the new work. “I think that this mural represents that respect that all the young people in this neighborhood have for this type of work.”

The theme of one of the murals, “We Are All Champions,” reflects the club’s current motto, “Be Great,” he said. “This is beyond anything that we expected.”

The project was funded through a grant from the Santa Barbara Foundation and through the Orfalea Fund.

One of the goals was to allow the youth to network with adults who could provide them with additional resources. Many of the youth who volunteered with the project are now working with organizations like the Solstice Parade and Unity Shoppe, Venegas said. Several have also been placed with jobs in the city.

In addition to the murals, the team also meets several times a week to paint on canvasses, learn graphic design, silkscreen and photography. The group is always in need of resources to keep the art coming, like brushes and paints, and Venegas said would-be donors are welcome. For more information on how to donate, call Venegas at 805.963.7605.

They group is also planning to work on a larger mural on another side of the club, which would take about $20,000 to finish.

“I remember what this used to look like, and this is really fabulous,” City Councilman Roger Horton said before cutting the ribbon. “This kind of thing provides so much for the kids and gives them something to look forward to and something to work for.”

Council members Grant House and Helene Schneider also were at the event.

One side of the mural was inspired by the younger children, who share the adjacent playground at the club, and the other side came from the ideas of the older teenagers, said artist Manuel Unzueta, who painted the project along with the younger members.

Diana Murillo and her sister, Yvonne, are high school students who live on the Eastside and were involved in the project. They go to the center four times a week to paint and said tagging was a big problem in the Eastside park before the first mural was installed. Diana also said she loved the content of the mural, which shows a farming couple plowing land together, and is adjacent to the community garden. “It really reflects our culture,” she said.

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

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