by Edgardo Cervano-Soto, Media Justice Organizer
The new “RYSE Values Mural” sprawls like a woven tapestry of color on the wall facing MacDonald Avenue at 41st Street. The mural unveiling event held late June celebrated the completion with RYSE staff, youth members, city and county officials and public in attendance. The RYSE Values Mural is a literal and graphic representation of the center’s values. Founded in 2008 by a local youth led organizing campaign, the RYSE Youth Center serves youth and develops youth leadership through a social justice lens. The center has six values that guide its mission: Safety, Youth Leadership, Justice and Equity, Partnership, Creativity and Fun. The vibrant mural makes a statement of what RYSE is all about.
“Before it was a blank wall and nobody driving from MacDonald Avenue would know what the center was. Now you can see this vibrant color and energy and identify it with RYSE and the youth,” says Anthony Martinez, former RYSE member and the Visual Arts Assistant for the Media Arts and Culture Department.
The mural is divided into 14 quadrants spanning across the wall. In the top portion of the mural, each quadrant states a value in different font types. The quadrants are in contrasting colors, yellow, lavender, blues and reds. Beneath the top quadrant is the row of pictorial and text quadrants. The letters of RYSE of done in graffiti style while images such as a sunflower, the RYSE anniversary logo and hands holding graduation caps and globes.
In her speech, Executive Director Kimberly Aceves spoke on the mural’s importance. “The values that you see up there are the values that RYSE espouses. Its what we hold and it’s how we live our lives. Its our vision for how the Richmond community will live their lives,” said Aceves.
The RYSE Values Mural has been in production for close to a year. According to Cameron Thompson, Media Arts and Culture coordinator, the process involved designing and selecting graphics and text. Anthony Martinez helped conceptualized the mural and garnered feedback from RYSE youth members and staff. The mural involved more than 30 youth throughout its creation, exposing youth to graffiti art form and technique, and mural preparation.
Michael Morales, a RYSE youth member, assisted on painting two of the lower row quadrants. A four-year member and now 21 and attending Berkeley City College for graphic design, Morales says his involvement with the mural came natural. He was already in the youth center regularly and had previous experience with the arts. In return for his help, Morales says he received mentorship and exposure. “Cameron definitely helped me along the way in designing the hands and text. Being involved with RYSE has made it easier for me to show off my art and have it seen by multiple people other than just my immediate friends,” says Morales.
The Media Arts and Culture department from RYSE has helped fill a void in supporting the visual arts scene in Richmond says Morales and Martinez. In fact, the Visual Arts program, organized by Martinez and Visual Arts Coordinator Veronica Orozco, is a fairly recent program. In its short span it has provided youth artists opportunities to produce. “There is no money coming into the arts. No one is coming up to youth and saying I will fund you. We are trying to build an art culture here in the city of Richmond. In SF and Oakland you have incredible art scenes, and Richmond has the culture for it too,” says Martinez.
The support for the arts has recently fluctuated in Richmond. While the city of Richmond in its current budget for 2014-2014 fiscal year averted a $395,000 cut to the city’s public arts program, the city of Richmond approved a $100,000 funding cut to the Richmond Art Center, the largest and longest serving visual arts center in Richmond. Noting the affect budget cuts would have on the center, the City of Richmond chose to forgive a $96,000 loan from the Richmond Art Center. Yet, support for the arts is also dwindling in the larger Bay Area, as public art institutions such as Intersection for the Arts has closed under the inability to navigate high cost in San Francisco. Yet, art continues to be a draw for interested public case in point Oakland’s First Friday event, Oakland Art Murmur. The Richmond Arts and Culture Commission from the City of Richmond, funded $5,500 through its Neighborhood Public Art mini-grant to the RYSE Values mural. The Richmond Arts and Culture Commission has supported other murals including the Alive and Free Richmond Mural at Harbour Way and MacDonald Avenue.
Richmond is not as developed as those two scenes, but the potential is there according to many. Morales adds, more places like RYSE are needed to support the arts in Richmond. “There are great artists but who are under rocks,” he says. Support is needed.Visual Arts Assistant Anthony Martinez, former RYSE youth member and intern, helps inaugurate the RYSE Values Mural at 41st and MacDonald. Photo Credit: Gemikia Henderson