Mayor Helene Schneider, city officials, airport representatives, and several students uncovered an 80-foot mural — entitled “Postcards of Travel” — at the Santa Barbara Municipal Airport on Monday.
Airport Director Karen Ramsdell, Schneider, and Ricardo Venegas, Neighborhood and Outreach Services (NOS) coordinator, introduced the project and those who worked on it during a ceremony before the unveiling. All acknowledged the participants’ hard work and dedication to the project.
Twenty-six Santa Barbara teenage volunteers created the mural with the help and guidance of artist Carlos Cuellar. Three of the students, Ruben Cuevas, Leslie Rodriguez, and Marylee Guerrero, spoke at the ceremony about their experience. Guerrero said she went into the project with some expectations, but got “way more” out of it than she anticipated. She recognized the positive impact from making the commitment to working on the mural; she now has a job at the library. Rodriguez and Cuevas also acknowledged the benefit from working on the painting.
“It was one of the best things I’ve ever done here,” Rodriguez said.
Venegas said that the recruited volunteers also worked on other city projects and put in a total of 540 hours of community service. The project was part of the Youth Art Alliance Program, one of the programs sponsored by NOS. The program functions as a way to help at-risk youth stay out of trouble and receive some guidance in life skills.
“It’s an opportunity to get involved in something positive,” Venegas said. “[The program] uses art as a hook to bring them in.” He said this program, through talented teachers like Cuellar, leads to more involvement with NOS as a whole, and guidance to return to school or get a job instead of getting into trouble on the streets. He said that there are several school dropouts, but the program is helping some go back to school and “turn things around for themselves.”
Cuellar gave the participants two weeks of instruction before beginning the actual project, including an overview of public art and why it is important. After the ceremony and the unveiling, he indicated that the “art” several people were used to was graffiti and gang signs. He said that some of the young artists would come and paint things such as “805,” but he worked with them to change their minds about what art is.
He said he was “overwhelmed” by the day and proud of what the students had done.
Across the top of the mural, the volunteers painted “Welcome to Santa Barbara and Goleta,” and several “postcards” depicting Santa Barbara landmarks are painted on top of a beach scene.