Yvette Roman, a muralist, teacher, artista extraordinaria, and Artist Advocacy Co-Chair for this year’s Rising Arts Leaders Steering Committee has built and maintained many connections in her career as an artist in San Diego. One such contact being Gerardo Meza, a fellow artist working out of San Ysidro. Together, they have painted a multitude of electrical boxes in South San Diego, decorating the streets in a vibrant way. Prior to the recent self-isolation period and protests, the Border Public Art Committee, or BPAC, provided a small amount of funding for artists to paint pieces publicly, however, due to recent circumstances and loss of funding, the current paintings being done along the streets of San Ysidro are all on a voluntary status: without pay, but with good intentions. Through this partnership with BPAC, creatives throughout San Diego are invited to work on public art pieces just north of the Tijuana border Crossing.
BPAC was formed by the San Ysidro Chamber of Commerce, which seeks to uplift, amongst other things, the small bi-national town. BPAC’s goal is to advance the cultural heritage and relationship between San Ysidro and Tijuana through art: whether it’s murals, public art pieces, or performance art. With the recent marches in solidarity, Gerardo wanted to bring artistas together to share a message of unity. On his work with the SY Chamber of Commerce and with creating public art close to the border, Gerardo said, “BPAC was created to bring art to our community. As artists I think it is our duty to be the voice of society while beautifying public spaces. As an artist, community involvement is very important. You don’t know how many smiles you can create with the stroke of your brush.”
Recently, Yvette invited me (Wendy Gracia, or “Art Bug”), Corazon Magaña, and Luz Clayton (Arte deLuz, an artist at Cositas Bonitas in Barrio Logan) to join her and paint with Gerardo Meza (“Mezarte”) in San Ysidro, right off San Ysidro Boulevard and Dairy Mart Rd. Throughout the day, our group was careful, maintaining social distancing and wearing masks while working together to create individual and unique pieces. The theme for this day of painting was to create a message of unity or peace, but otherwise, the artists involved were given absolute creative freedom. Gerardo tends to work with spray paint, for example, while I chose to experiment with house paints, and Yvette worked with primarily acrylic paint.
All in all, the experience was fulfilling and energizing as four utility boxes were decorated, and the strip along West San Ysidro Blvd. ended up a little brighter, with messages of unity and empowerment enhancing the sidewalk.