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.
The Bill Medley Auditorium hallway gets a fresh coat of paint
Through the Emmy award winning artist, Dionisio Ceballos, SAHS is embracing high art to exhibit in the foyer of the well-trafficked Bill Medley Auditorium, connecting to the artist village of Downtown as a destination for arts and culture in Santa Ana. The artist, who goes by Dio, plans to capture the pre-hispanic iconography of our local culture as shown in the attached, and will infuse the spirit, energy and imagery of the students, staff, parents and community who cross the threshold into this historic and distinctive school through a planned, yet intuitive organic process to really connect with the meaning of the oldest school in Santa Ana. As the principal, Jeff Bishop says, “As Santa Ana High School goes, so goes the city.”
Dio is well known for his work on the film "Frida"
Of his many credits, Dio worked on the film “Frida” which received 6 Academy-award nominations, including best art direction. Dio studied the techniques of Frida and painted all the Frida work represented in the movie. He exhibits some of his work at the esteemed San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. He is a multidisciplinary artist known for his murals, and is also a screenwriter and animated film artist. He works in the U.S. and Mexico and brings some of the unique color palette, imagery, and tradition so much a part of Mexican art and infuses it with his study of light and atmosphere to make his pieces current, relevant and timeless.
Dio's work holds deep meaning
Dio represents the meta-disciplines and entrepreneurial skill-sets required by artists today. His story is of a path that meanders from intent and, yet, magically and perfectly builds a unique skill set that allows one to meet the immediate and rapidly evolving demands of industry when they appear. He demonstrates the risk-taking required of creatives today and a willingness to say “yes” in the moment, equipped with the resources and grit to figure it out and not only succeed, but thrive. He is open and vulnerable, sharing his thoughts and process so that others can learn from his work and find their own voice within their own process. Through his work, he demonstrates the joy that art brings to visually stimulate thought and energy, stir emotion and conversation, and activate community. It’s another way of capturing the adage of, “If these walls could talk.” As the mural unfolds and takes on a life of its own, there will be much talking about this visual and literal transformation of Santa Ana High School to an arts-focused, arts-centered school in the process of developing an arts school within the bigger context of the school while ensconcing all students in an arts-rich visual environment, because the arts literally do touch all aspects of our lives, directly and indirectly.
Read more in the OC Register: "How Frida Kahlo and Jack Daniels led to a giant mural at Santa Ana High"
About SanArts at Santa Ana High School
Santa Ana High School (SAHS) is undergoing a transformation to celebrate the history and culture that reigns the halls of this iconic school while capturing the school’s rich heritage through visual culture. It’s a metaphorical representation of the work going on around SanArts, the next generation arts conservatory at Santa Ana High School.
Story by Robyn MacNair
Santa Ana Arts News
News, opportunities and updates for the creative community.