Beth Tobey

Diversity Center Youth Mural to be placed at the Louden Nelson Community Center

Beth Tobey @ 6/29/2017

At their June meeting the Arts Commission unanimously approved a mural project developed by local teens that will be placed on the wall/fencing at the corner of Laurel St. and Center St. at the Louden Nelson Community Center.

The mural, titled “Unify, Decolonize, Thrive” represents the past, present and future of marginalized groups – with particular focus on LGBTQIA or, as they simply say - “queer youth.”

 Artists Manny Garcia and Oliver Whitcroft presented the mural project to the Commission— thoughtfully discussing the broad range of images and how they had developed the themes in conversation with the teens. “It was particularly important to the teens that the mural show solidarity with all marginalized groups” explained Manny Garcia - noting that many queer youth also belong to other marginalize groups.

The mural starts out in the past – showing real news stories pulled from historical archives in Santa Cruz County – about slavery, seizure of tribal lands, Chinese indentured labor, and the Japanese internment camps during WWII. Moving towards the present the mural transitions from gray tones into color, depicting local and national history – including recent Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) protests, an iconic image of a flower-wielding Black Lives Matter activist, former Mayor Tom Laird, the Washington DC AIDS quilt, Stonewall and the Santa Cruz Diversity Center. A bridge with the word “intersectionality” sits behind a scene of protestors holding a banner that says “equality.”

Resize Image Intersectionality Colour Finalized

The healthy, thriving future is one in which we are all – literally and metaphorically in the same boat. The symbolism is that of life, transformation (the serpent) as well as mythical creatures which show a caring for the land, a love of the sacred and a vibrant future. Police are depicted meditating and doing yoga.

In addition to testimony, the Arts Commission reviewed comment cards collected at a neighborhood meeting (which is required as part of our mural policy for any mural placed on city-owned property) and also asked a variety of questions.

Teens involved in the project, Sadie Reeve and Andrea Flores-Morgado, spoke in favor of the mural. Andrea’s comments, in particular, moved the Commission.

This mural will forever make a mark in the history of Santa Cruz - effectively showing the oppression and resilience that minorities received through these tough times. We're in a crossroads of destiny. Our youth, our generation can look back into the past mistakes and move forward striving for this future or we can continue this cycle of oppression and not improve our lives. This mural symbolizes our struggle, our resilience and it is absolutely necessary that the next generation learns from this and creates a better brighter future right here in Santa Cruz County.

— Andrea Flores-Morgado

Commissioner Lock noted that the presentation and testimony had been “extraordinary” and it seemed fitting that a descriptive sign accompany the mural, so that the public understands the rich meaning of the mural. City Arts Manger, Beth Tobey, agreed and noted that additional funding would be allocated for this.

Commissioner Lock made a motion to approve the mural and matching grant request of $8,000, with the provision that a descriptive sign also be funded. Commissioner Kershner seconded that motion. The motion passed unanimously by the Arts Commission.

The presenters took a celebratory photo outside before skipping off for the night--the featured image for this story--Left to right /  top to bottom: Oliver, Sadie, Alex, Manny and Andrea.