Young artivist helps a community heal through art; people are mobilizing to help her, and we hope you’ll too.

By Lupita Peimbert. Photos by Jeff Kan Lee.

Two stories converge here. One is about bringing the opportunity of experiencing art to children and youth affected one way or another by neighborhood violence. The other is about Maria de Los Angeles, a young woman currently studying fine arts at Yale University School of Art, who instead of spending her summer vacation at the beach or with friends like any 20-something, is giving her talent and time teaching art to young people.

One City Arts
Daisy Soto, 12, with her art done at the One City Arts program at Cook Middle School.

The program began July 7, has close to 50 students, a handful of art teachers and assistants, and it will continue until August 8. It has the support of the superintendent of schools and the principal of Lawrence Cook Middle School,  in Santa Rosa, California, where the program takes place.

“For many of these children, this is their first opportunity to work with proper materials and to have the guidance of Art teachers. The course curriculum includes the basics of drawing, color theory and design. I am very excited about what they will learn and what they will create,” says Maria de Los Angeles.

One City Arts
One City Arts is teaching Michelle Torres Romero to explore several painting methods, and she shows her abilities with this piece.

The project costs $30,000 for expenses such as art supplies, teacher stipends, teaching assistants, breakfast, lunch, and carpentry. Program and classes are going on although Maria de Los Angeles does not even have half of the needed funding.

That is when you, the one who is reading this, can help. Don’t turn the page –or better said, don’t go click somewhere else, please stay with me.

One City Arts
Stephanie Flores, 7, painted this space dog at the One City Arts program at Cook Middle School.

A group of community and business people from Sonoma County known as “Los Cien,” and their friends, have responded to Maria de Los Angeles’ call for action and have set the goal of $5,000. She is working on establishing a non-profit “One City Arts,” and meanwhile Community Action Partnership (CAP) is acting as fiscal agent for collecting funds so that the summer arts program does not end in red.

It is transparent, and it is good, but Maria de Los Angeles still is short of funding. Dear reader, your part is to decide to share a bit of your resources for something worthwhile.

One City Arts
Steven Morrison, 14, concentrates on his art at the One City Arts program at Cook Middle School.

Frankly, I think you and most people will agree that art is powerful for healing communities, that Maria de Los Angeles is doing something remarkable, and that all of us can be part of something wonderful. Give $10, $20 or as much as you wish. Please do it today, or tomorrow the latest. Otherwise, you may forget about it. Compelled to act immediately? send a check right away. Please contact Herman Hernandez via email (Herman philanthropist and one of the main leaders for Los Cien); let him know about your donation so that he can add you to the list. Herman’s email:

Make checks out to CAP/ One City Arts, and send it to:

Community Action Partnership
1300 N Dutton Ave, Santa Rosa, CA 95401

Please make sure to also write on the left corner “One City Arts,” or include a note saying “One City Arts.”

One City Arts
Gael Vargas, 5, contemplates where he will lay his brush down next during the One City Arts program at Cook Middle School.

In case you were wondering, the program is running in the Roseland area of Santa Rosa in Northern California, a neighborhood affected by spurs of violence and the area where the Andy Lopez tragedy occurred. The majority of residents are low-income, monolingual Latino working parents and their children; often under-served and often affected by social injustices. Yet, just by looking at the paintings the kids are creating, one cannot but smile, like Maria de Los Angeles does every time someone asks how the program is going.

Maria de Los Angeles, MFA student at Yale University School of Art.

“I am very impressed by their creativity,” she said at a recent event, her face glowing while talking about it. On the Facebook page for One City Arts, later she posted: “the paintings being created are truly incredible. I am so proud and inspired.”

Maria de Los Angeles gives special thanks to Voices Youth Center, who first provided some  funding, and to the following businesses for their support: Friedman’s Brothers, Riley Street Art Supply, La Tortilla Factory, and Lola’s Market. Also to Photojournalist Jeff Kan Lee.

One City Arts
Kevin Santiago, 8, shows great story-telling potential with this piece involving a cat and a fish.

If you wish to contact Maria de Los Angeles to donate, or to buy some of her paintings, please let me know and I will be happy to connect the two of you. ( I wrote this article hoping that others will feel inspired to support the young Artivista by donating to this program today.

At an event not long ago, Maria de Los Angeles said: “I am at Yale University now, yes, but I do not want to be rich and famous and forget where I come from. I want to use my knowledge and resources to help my community.

“Art is not a pleasure, a solace, or an amusement, art is great matter. Art is an organ of human life, transmitting man’s reasonable perception into feeling. …Art should cause violence to be set aside. And it is only art that can accomplish this.”
-Leo Tolstoy

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