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Jumbo-Sized Portraits Give Watsonville an Artistic Upgrade

Students from E.A. Hall Middle School and Renaissance High paint the town with black and white pictures of themselves and a never forgotten classmate.

Watsonville got an artistic facelift on Sunday morning after more than 50 volunteers helped put up huge black and white portraits of students from and to make a silent, yet, powerful message to the community. 

Students, faculty members, and local community volunteers pasted about 60 of the 3-by-5-foot and 6-by-10-foot images on the walls of the Civic City Plaza and the old City Hall buildings on Main Street as well as the Youth Center and a bare wall on Second Street. next to the Second Street Café.

The giant-sized pieces of art are part of a worldwide idea called the Inside Out Project where themes and messages are delivered by people in different countries including Brazil, Israel, and Australia to make statements by putting the jumbo portraits along the walls, trees and any open space available. Folks cover various topics such as peace, diversity, environment, and hope.  

Jean Beebe is the Education Outreach Coordinator of the Pajaro Valley Arts Council and she was in charge of Sunday’s project called

Beebe got the idea of the black and white portraits about a year ago when she drove down on 17th Avenue and came across the Live Oak Supermarket with the same concept.

“I was just going over to visit my friends and I saw that and I said ‘Why is that? Are they employees of the month?’” said Beebe.

But she soon figured it was the work of Mariah Roberts who is also actively involved in local communities with displaying black and white photography on the walls. Roberts picked up the idea from the Inside Out Project and wrote to French artist and the person in charge of the idea, JR, to get started in Santa Cruz County. 

The digital portraits were sent over to JR in France where he then printed them on environmental friendly biodegradable paper and the volunteers in Sunday’s event used a paste made with simple household ingredients such as flour, sugar, and water.

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Beebe wasn’t alone in this giant task and she received tons of help from instructors Daniel Levy of E.A. Hall and Karen Lemon of Renaissance High. The three of them brought together students and other members of the staff from both schools to collaborate on this unique project since the beginning of February.

Ceiba Middle School and High School were also involved with the project and they have portraits on the 2nd street wall. Lori Butterworth, their Outreach Director, was instrumental in doing the PR and made a donation to the Inside Out Project.

Lemon said that the students came up with the name for their theme from one solid question, “What do you want for your communities?”

“Out of 30 kids in a classroom they came up with statements like ‘Hey, you only live once’, or ‘We want peace in the streets’, or ‘We want to be able to go outside without being afraid’” said Lemon. “It made me cry that it was so heartfelt from these young people that they really are concerned about their community.”

The spirit of Cynthia Madrigal was still amongst the students from Renaissance High and they showed it by putting up a black and white portrait of the fallen student even though she wasn’t part of the Inside Out Project. Her parents David Madrigal and Martha Sandoval also volunteered and put up their daughter’s picture. 

“It’s a really great message that she’s part of this peace project,” said Sandoval. “I kind of feel a little bit honored honestly. This is something that she would probably be a part of. Peace in our streets is something that should be a priority.”

Rebecca Tait July 09, 2012 at 03:14 AM
This was a blast . Some of the students were helping out and got to see their photos being pasted up. Peace on the Streets - a worldwide project.
Cynthia July 09, 2012 at 05:32 AM
So powerful, can't wait to see. Thank you!
Valerie Lemke July 09, 2012 at 02:25 PM
What an inspirational and empowering project for those who participated as well as all of us in the community! I can't wait to see it.
randy July 09, 2012 at 06:53 PM
It is so great to see such positive articles about our youth. Too much is writing is placed on the "bad" misguided happenings. Hope to see many more articles about this. Many young people do volunteer service, help the community etc and I hope that they can see that it is appreciated. I am going to go take pictures of this when I head downtown. Great job EVERYONE. Hope the councill will recognize all the effort on this. This is the opinion of RANDY
Jennifer Squires July 09, 2012 at 06:59 PM
I totally agree! Here are a couple more uplifting stories about young people in Watsonville doing good things: http://watsonville.patch.com/articles/police-cadets-step-up-lend-a-hand http://watsonville.patch.com/articles/watsonville-fashonista-debuts-spring-line#photo-9726217 http://watsonville.patch.com/articles/watsonville-based-youth-program-advocates-healthy-eating-and-physical-activity#photo-8721909
Jaime Sanchez July 09, 2012 at 07:23 PM
Art is the answer!
JoAnn Borbolla July 09, 2012 at 09:51 PM
Awesome! The community needs more art and events for the kids.
Watzon McWats July 13, 2012 at 01:14 AM
Love these! There's no such thing as too much street art. More! More! More!
Jean Sheckler Beebe August 29, 2012 at 03:07 PM
Thank you all for these great comments. In lining up the project I had one business person who was very negative and for a brief moment I feared there might be more negative reaction. I am delighted and thrilled with the public support for this project for peace. THANK YOU WATSONVILLE!!

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