A mural celebrating diversity is being created in Santa Barbara
A unique way to welcome under-represented students on campus is being created at one South Coast college.
Music is playing, the sun is shining and a group of artists and students are painting a colorful mural on a wall.
It’s a simple scene of joy – but one which we might have taken for granted until two and a half years ago.
Now, here at Santa Barbara City College, as students prepare to return on Monday, it’s an opportunity to come together and work on an art project in a way which simply hasn’t been possible for so long.
"They wanted to really make an impact with the return of students, especially after COVID and the pandemic and a limited amount of access to the campus," said André Jones - aka Natty Rebel, the Executive Director of the Bay Area Mural Program and one of the lead artists on this project.
Jones says the college wanted to center the mural around their diversity and BIPOC student body.
The mural isn’t just a way to brighten up the wall of the Campus center building, which houses the cafeteria and many student services. It’s a project by the college’s Umoja program - a resource for enhancing the cultural and educational experience of African-American and other students.
"Students can see that we are making an effort to show positive Blackness here on campus and that they have a safe place to just be themselves," said Alicia Meyer, the student program advisor at SBCC for the Umoja program.
It is one way to reinvigorate campus culture and student life after the impact of the last couple of years – and to welcome back students – like Keenan Kelton to the campus.
"It was difficult being online but once I actually started coming into school, I didn't really see too many Black students here. It's good to see that even though there's not many of us, we have this collective here and we can come out and do things like paint this mural."
It’s been amazing to watch the project come together, says student Aminah Hill, who has been painting part of the wall today.
"Seeing it on the wall, and being here with them every day has been really fun and rewarding," she told KCLU.
And artist Jones explained what the mural will look like.
"Two silhouettes of two children playing and above them is a sleeping child in that dream state, dreaming - what are they gonna be.
"Then it goes through a bit of a motherboard, which symbolizes the matrix, but then also our brainwaves and how we compute and calculate things.
"It takes to the next scene which is graduation. Showing the diversity of men and women going up that educational path, so we have a stack of books like a portal or a stairwell going up to the brain of the graduate.
"And then the graduate looking forward to the bigger part of the picture of education universally."
And the finished project will be a permanent fixture for students here for years to come.