The city of Watsonville got an artistic facelift on Sunday morning after more than 50 volunteers helped put up huge black and white portraits of students from E.A. Hall Middle School and Renaissance High to make a silent, yet, powerful message to the community.
Students, faculty members, and local community volunteers pasted about sixty of the 3 by 5 foot and 6 by 10 foot images on the walls of the Civic City Plaza and the old City Hall buildings on Main St. as well as the Youth Center and a bare wall on 2nd St. next to the Second Street Café.
The giant sized pieces of art are part of a worldwide idea called the Inside Out Project where themes and messages are delivered by people in different countries including Brazil, Israel, and Australia to make statements by putting the jumbo portraits along the walls, trees and any open space available. Folks cover various topics such as peace, diversity, environment, and hope.
Jean Beebe is the Education Outreach Coordinator of the Pajaro Valley Arts Council and she was in charge of Sunday’s project called “Peace in Our Streets, You Only Live Once.”
Beebe got the idea of the black and white portraits about a year ago when she drove down on 17th Avenue in Santa Cruz and came across the Live Oak Supermarket with the same concept.
“I was just going over to visit my friends and I saw that and I said ‘Why is that? Are they employees of the month?’” said Beebe.
But she soon figured it was the work of Mariah Roberts who is also actively involved in local communities with displaying black and white photography on the walls. Roberts picked up the idea from the Inside Out Project and wrote to French artist and the person in charge of the idea, JR, to get started in Santa Cruz County.
The digital portraits were sent over to JR in France where he then printed them on environmental friendly biodegradable paper and the volunteers in Sunday’s event used a paste made with simple household ingredients such as flour, sugar, and water.
However, Beebe wasn’t alone in this giant task and she received tons of help from instructors Daniel Levy of E.A. Hall and Karen Lemon of Renaissance High. The three of them brought together students and other members of the staff from both schools to collaborate on this unique project since the beginning of February.
Lemon said that the students came up with the name for their theme from one solid question, “What do you want for your communities?”
“Out of 30 kids in a classroom they came up with statements like ‘Hey, you only live once’, or ‘We want peace in the streets’, or ‘We want to be able to go outside without being afraid’” said Lemon. “It made me cry that it was so heartfelt from these young people that they really are concerned about their community.”
The spirit of Cynthia Madrigal was still amongst the students from Renaissance High and they showed it by putting up a black and white portrait of the fallen student even though she wasn’t part of the Inside Out Project. Her parents David Madrigal and Martha Sandoval also volunteered and put up their daughter’s picture.
“It’s a really great message that she’s part of this peace project,” said Sandoval. “I kind of feel a little bit honored honestly. This is something that she would probably be a part of. Peace in our streets is something that should be a priority.”