For the past year, Growing Greatness has worked with Arts Bridging the Gap providing zoning and permit consulting, along with other administrative services for their LA Street Art Initiative150 mural projects. Arts Bridging the Gap has partnered with the LAPD to work with youth throughout the city of Los Angeles on these mural projects. In Watts Los Angeles this program works with youth and families from three public housing complexes, Imperial Courts, Jordan Downs, and Nickerson Gardens. Through our participation in this program Growing Greatness is facilitating community engagement, community beautification, and building healthier relationships between the police and the communities they serve. Growing Greatness has facilitated weekly art workshops and provided mentorship to dozens of Los Angeles youth from the Watts community, and hundreds citywide. It has been a great experience to see the youth plan out mural ideas, while growing in the process.
On December 15, 2018, the youth from the Watts community saw an idea they had, come to life. The first of the Watts mural projects went up. When I arrived at 8:30am Saul, the mural artist, was mixing the paints to make sure each color an object in the mural needed was accounted for. I was briefed on the days plan while watching my breath release into crisp and cold air. Shortly after, the youth arrived with one of their mentors, Officer Angelo. Although it was early, the youth were excited to finally paint and had so much energy. They will were given direction on what to expect, and how to avoid getting paint on their clothes. Some decided that was their cue to take off their favorite jackets or turn their shirts inside out.
As the mural had been traced onto the wall the night before, the youth decided what part of the mural they wanted to paint, then received the assigned color(s) from Saul and started painting. There were at least 30 participants which included a diverse mixture of ages and ethnicities. Some of the participants were parents with their kids. Some people from the immediate community stopped by to see what was happening. Some asked to help, and some even brought food to share with everyone.
Prior to this day, the youth had a long process of planning to get through before they were able to paint. They met for over a year attending art workshops, ice breakers, and brainstorming to come up with the final mural designs. The other part of the process was waiting. Besides co-facilitating the art workshops, Growing Greatness processes many of the permitting and zoning compliance applications for the LA Art Initiative projects. The permitting process is one of the parts that requires waiting. The youth’s patience finally paid off.
As the youth painted I asked them questions to get a grasp on the impact this project had on them. They all said how proud they were of their work and they could not believe it was finally happening. Some of them said the mural officially made them artists. The youth were so focused, collaborative, and diligent. Even the younger ones did a great job. By 2pm the hard part of the paint job was done, and the rest was doing the touch up.
Because the program has a major component of building healthier police and community relationships, I took the opportunity to talk to officer Angelo who is in charge of the LAPD mentor program in Watts that works with the youth and their families. The LAPD program has been going on inn Watts for about 7 years and has had a drastic impact on crime reduction in Watts. He mentioned how his program has not only affected the way his precinct polices, but the program has been adopted in cities like Chicago and also internationally. Officer Angelo bbelieves in being a part of the community that is being policed. His mentorship and project partnerships like the one with Arts bridging the Gap helps him stay true to that committment. Officer Angelo expressed his appreciation to Arts Bridging the Gap because organizations like Arts Bridging the Gap help expose youth to diverse cultural experiences while developing community leadership, advocacy, and engagement.
The LA Art Initiative creates a platform where police officers can work weekly with the youth and families in all the communities the LA Art Initiative murals are created in. The work Growing Greatness has been doing with Arts Bridging the Gap’s, makes an impact on community beautification, improves police and community relations, lowers crime, provides mentorship, and decreases the likelihood of graffiti.
Although the mural project is far from over, I wanted to highlight this experience with a blog post. Growing Greatness will continue to manage the permitting and zoning compliance processes and applications as a consultant with Arts Bridging the Gap. It is an honor to work with these youth and see them pour their passion and desires for their community into their art work. To the youth who march onward, like the mural is inscribed “hope, dream, believe,” and go make the world a better place! Arts Bridging the Gap is a nonprofit organization that uses art to promote civic engagement, and community beautification. To learn more click any of the links provided.
Check out the video and pictures below of the completed mural, and process!