Club Kids helped with the mural of a fig tree that combines art, local history and culture. CSUCI students created the mural as part of the CSUCI Capstones project — with a component of giving back to the community — required for graduation.

S.P. Boys & Girls Club home to mural combining art, local history and culture

June 09, 2017
Santa Paula News

The famed Moreton Bay Fig Tree was the inspiration for a mural at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Clara Valley Harvard Boulevard Clubhouse where history became intertwined with other Santa Paula centric themes. 

The mural, according to Club Executive Director Jan Marholin, was the Capstones project for California State University Channel Islands graduate students Phillip Alexander and Vanessa Gomez, whose faculty advisor was CSUCI Professor Marianne McGrath. 

The Capstone Project is a 3-unit course designed to be the culmination of the Bachelor of Arts Degree in Liberal Studies. In this course, students apply the knowledge obtained through their general education, core coursework, and program of study to a project completed with a faculty advisor. Students complete their Capstones Projects during one of their last two semesters prior to graduation from CSUCI.

Both Phillip and Vanessa were Studio Arts majors and Marholin said, “Marianne connected them and they wanted to do a mural. When they discussed locations our name came up.”

A bonus was the two artists involved Club Kids in the project that took about 50 hours over weeks to finish.

The mural, said Marholin, “Is just gorgeous — they left a legacy at the club!”

Capstones, said McGrath, “Is a wonderful project that the university does that emphasizes students’ own idea of giving back to the community. 

My family has been involved in the club a long time,” with generations of family members serving on the Board of Directors.

And Phillip and Vanessa, noted McGrath, “Were wonderful, wonderful young people, I was excited to be their teacher.”

Studio Arts said Vanessa, is a multifaceted spin on creativity.

“With Fine Art you usually have an emphasis on fine, classical painting. With Studio Arts you have a mixture,” such as hers that includes painting, photography, sculpturing and screen-printing. 

Capstones she added, involves “giving back to the community in some ways and Alexander and I were asked to be creative. We decided to collaborate on a mural,” as both would have enjoyed a mural class but the university did not offer a course.

Murals, said Vanessa, “Was one of the things that drove me to be an artist. I came from a small town known for its murals,” Exeter, California where since 1994 more than 30 murals depicting history, culture and folklore have been created. 

“As conceptualizing what we wanted to do we visited the murals,” in Santa Paula and were particularly struck by the mural showing artists and architects located on the southwest corner of 10th and Santa Barbara streets — and behind the city’s famous Moreton Bay Fig Tree, planted on July 4th 137 years ago.

“We wanted to give back to the community but more so to the younger community…they don’t know much about the history of the Moreton Bay Fig,” and as well the history conveyed by the murals. 

Vanessa is a resident of Camarillo and her fiancé Richard Ramos a Santa Paulan: “It was a big thing to him as well. The tree is a wonderful symbol, it was nice doing the research on the tree and telling the kids about it, they really liked it.”

After giving Club Kids a presentation on the Moreton Bay Vanessa and Phillip decided “instead of an exact replica we wanted to depict the tree in a more cultural way, with symbols you see in any indigenous culture. The idea is to unify all cultures with an example of visual communications.”

Vanessa said, “We are very grateful for the opportunity, that Professor McGrath and the club let us do this,” mural that mixed culture, history and art.  

The Moreton Bay Fig said Alexander is “something everybody knows about, they’ve seen it,” and in turn “The message of our mural is mainly diversity and inclusion, we are all one. We convey that in a symbolic way in the different patterns in the tree.”

There is also an environmental message: “We wanted the kids to be more conscious of the land; the kids were really quick to pick that message up, its importance. That and helping our community.”

With new development in Santa Paula’s future Phillip, a resident of Oxnard, said the tree is also “A perfect symbol of growth.”

He and Vanessa found the Boys & Girls Clubhouse the “perfect place” for the mural especially as “Santa Paula is big on murals. Things worked out and they gave us the space — we were super happy from the very beginning.”

And so, noted Phillip, were the Club Kids when, “At the very end we invited them to come in and contribute. We basically made stencils for them, geometric not too complicated, fun symbols that don’t relate to any particular culture but relate universally.”

The kids found the work was harder then they thought with positions having to be taken and held to paint on the unmovable flat surface of the wall. 

“But they were excited and really good at it,” he noted. “Some felt like they were artists” while others didn’t but all the Club Kids “still understood they were working together, that everyone has that creative ability and they showed it.”

Marholin said the club “values being partners with CSUCI” in the project especially as the university students were “excellent role models,” for the approximately 40 Club Kids that helped with the mural.

She wants to purchase sealant so Phillip and Vanessa can protect the work against future damage.

“That way,” said Marholin, “it will last forever so kids that come back can say they had an integral part of this mural that will always be there.”

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