What is the impact of radically celebrating those living in the margins our our city?
What if we could see the gold hidden beneath their life or hardship and pain?
What if you could use art to help them see who they really are?
Brian Peterson, Founder of Faces of Santa Ana, and Damin Lujan, Santa Ana street artist, took on the opportunity to dignify and celebrate those living in the margins of Santa Ana’s downtown community. Formerly known as the Guest Inn and Suites, the hotel has been transformed into the The Orchard, a large 70 room permanent housing community for the homeless in Santa Ana. As construction nears a completion, Community Development Partners reached out to the local artist’s to brighten up the 3000 square ft wall in the rear of the building.
Before paint touched the wall, the artists first met and interviewed the new residents of The Orchard. They realized the importance of connecting with the resident’s hearts before creating the art for the wall. This was in fact the start of the mural. Their stories and hearts became the inspiration for the large wall comprised of twelve portraits and many symbols derived from their interviews. Unlike most murals in large cities, The Orchard project is a mural specifically for the residents. It positioned in the rear courtyard of their community, surrounded by future fruit and vegetable gardens and a learning center. It is a piece of art the 70 residents can be proud of. It is something they can call their own.
The full project took about 6 days to complete. Along the way, Brian and Damin had the opportunity to spend time with Daniel, a 14 year old resident of The Orchard. Daniel stood in amazement, watching his face and his beloved puppy being painted 18 feet in height. After an extended moment of silence and reflection, Daniel uttered, “I feel so special!”. Brian and Damin began to realize the power and impact the mural was creating. They asked Daniel, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how special do you feel?” Daniel responded, “Definitely a 10! It’s always been on my bucket list to be painted.”
The artist’s spent the six days laughing, joking, loving, and learning from The Orchard’s residents. Big John, the third portrait on the wall, spent all six days outside with Brian and Damin extending the tough love and endless jokes he's known for within The Orchard’s walls. He was their daily dose of joy and encouragement during the long hours of painting. Many other residents brought the artists food, snacks, and even a hand written thank you card. In the end, the mural has revealed its purpose to all involved. More than bringing color and life to a space, its true intention was to build relationships. Art has a supernatural way to pull down walls and connect us. Damin and Brian feel that the bigger the wall, the larger the opportunity to love, learn, and grow. Together, they dream of more walls like this in cities around the world. They are committed to dignifying and celebrating those who know what its like to feel invisible. Their journey of art and love is just beginning.
Story and Photos by Brian Peterson. Faces of Santa Ana.