BY JOE PAYNE
A crowd of excited art students and their families joined coordinators and volunteers to unveil the Santa Maria Valley Discovery Museum’s new mural on the morning of June 6. The long, high wall at the Discovery Museum displayed the efforts of 20 art students from the Santa Maria Valley’s four public high schools and a number of coordinators, mentors, volunteers, and businesses that contributed.
The mural, made possible through The Arts Fund’s Teen Arts Mentorship Program, depicts a little girl blowing bubbles with the backdrop of a night scene, complete with stars and silhouettes. Each bubble encapsulates a small tableau. Though the mural was untitled as of the unveiling, the theme of the work is imagination and creativity, explained Allan Hancock College art instructor John Hood, who worked closely with the student artists on the project.
“Each composition was an idea that students came up with in class,” he said. “Some kids were good at painting, others weren’t as good, so they were the technical help, which we needed tons of.”
Each bubble scene was created separately from the Santa Maria Valley Discovery Museum’s wall, Hood explained, at the Abel Maldonado Youth Center, which donated the space to coordinators with The Arts Fund. Students worked for seven weeks painting on round Polytab fabric canvases that were later transferred to the wall.
The mural’s indigo background had to be completed before the Polytabs could go up, Hood explained, and everyone involved became motivated once the cans of paint and laborious task of covering the nearly 80 foot wall was met by a donation from Kelly-Moore Paints in Santa Maria and John Daniloff of Sea Breeze Painting.
“They came out in one day and sprayed it all on, and that’s when it became a reality,” Hood said. “That’s when we could begin the silhouettes, that all had to be first, and then we could put the decals on.”
The Teen Arts Mentorship program was designed to get local teens working with experienced mentors as well as each other to create public art projects. The new mural is the first time The Arts Fund brought the mentorship program to Santa Maria, explained the organization’s executive director Brad Nack, who said that the organization and others funding it—like the Morris B. Squire Foundation and the Santa Barbara Foundation—are motivated to bring more public art and outreach to North County.
For one student artist, Ernest Righetti High School senior Anaya Navarro, the project was a chance for her to collaborate with peers in an unprecedented way.“It’s really cool and refreshing to see kids that are my age come up with ideas together and inspire each other, because I’ve mostly done art by myself,” she said. “It was really nice to do something this big with this many people; it really came together in a cohesive way.”
The program was designed, explained The Arts Fund’s Program Director Marcello Ricci, not just for teachers like Hood to mentor the students, but also for youth to mentor each other. With support from the community—including the Santa Maria Recreation and Parks Department, the Santa Maria Valley Discovery Museum, the Abel Maldonado Youth Center, Kelly-Moore Paints, Sea Breeze Painting—the students were able to focus on the project for weeks, allowing the most time and energy to go into the quality of each tableau.
Even the students who didn’t paint the decals still contributed massive amounts of help, Hood explained, so everyone involved shared a sense of accomplishment at the unveiling event.
“It was a major collaboration,” Hood said. “At the end, I feel that they all felt they made major contributions to the mural.”
Arts Editor Joe Payne likes to see young people working together. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.