On June 9th, the last day of school, Hoover Elementary students received a special visit from California Senator Nancy Skinner. Senator Skinner has been following closely the work of Attitudinal Healing Connection, Inc. (AHC) and The Oakland Super Heroes Mural Project which, this year, has faced a major bureaucratic roadblock, delaying the 4th mural timeline and resulting in the Youth Leadership students being unable to see the completion of this project. AHC community organizers, parents, principals and the youth eagerly joined to question the senator on "why" our mural project was being delayed. Caltrans, the property owners of the freeway walls, is requiring Moral Authority Copyrights of mural imagery as part of their new approval process. This request is being replicated statewide, and has deterred the production process for artists all over California.
The students had many questions on if and when their mural project would be completed, if it would be before graduating from elementary school, and most importantly, if she would be able to help them. Senator Skinner said she had joined the youth’s advocacy efforts by joining with another Senator to request an amended agreement to the Director of Caltrans. She said she believed that this project would be approved, trusting that the good in people would be moved by the youth’s art and voice which powerfully shows why public art, especially public art about concepts that relay peace and represent the community, is so important.
The Hoover Elementary Youth Leadership students have taken an incredible journey for the last two years in the collaborative process of AHC’s Oakland Super Heroes Mural Project. As third graders in the ArtEsteem program, they created a series of life-size superheroes that address problems in the community by using powers to bring peace, food and homes to people in need. The characters would become the inspiration for the 4th large-scale mural to be painted under the 580 freeway. This year as fourth graders, the students continued to conceptually develop the meaning of the next mural. They attended the Public Art Advisory Committee (PAAC) meeting to have the design approved and worked hard on developing their art skills to prepare for mural production.
When the Caltrans copyrights issue blocked the project, the youth quickly moved into advocacy efforts which included gathering petitions, writing letters to Caltrans and public officials, and holding a peaceful protest down by the 4000 sq. ft. blank wall chanting “Art Can Inspire” and “Art Is Peace.” The students' courageous activism received new coverage by Channel 7 and KQED, who are in the process of creating a documentary about this project and the community’s journey.
While the project has gained more awareness and nearly 700 people have signed a petition, there is still work to be done. The community is waiting for Caltrans to reconsider their position and allow this important project to move forward.
Ways to Get Involved: Sign the Petition through change.org (Click Here) and recirculate through social media, call and write letters to the Director of Caltrans, Malcolm Dougherty and California representatives in support of this project, donate to AHC to assist in the fundraising efforts to ensure mural completion and congratulate our youth for their inspiration!