Channel Islands High School Garden Mural Complete

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The Farm to School Program sponsored a year-long mural project at CIHS where AP Art Students worked with a local mural artist and their teacher, Mr. Cardinez, to design and paint a mural over 50 feet long and 6 feet high.  Alejandra Orozco and Lynn Abagatnan were the lead artists for the mural, while many students in Mr. Cardinez’s classes contributed to the themes and overall concept.

When asked why the design begins with an astronaut, Alejandra explains “At CI we believe that no dream is too big or unachievable; our potential is limitless. Like space.”  Another student, Oscar Garcia, decided that the astronaut should become beloved Campus Supervisor Antoine Latimer to honor his memory after he passed away this year. 

The astronaut is watering vegetables and then the scene transforms into CIHS baseball, football, water polo players and cheerleaders who are using the vegetables as sports equipment, and the water becomes the Tsunami- CIHS Marching Band!  A koi fish is included to honor the OUHSD Irrigation Specialist, Alex Navarro.  Alex installed the irrigation in the garden in 2016 and is retiring this year- he loves koi fish and this is our way to tribute his service to our district for over three decades. 

After the Tsunami Marching Band wave, you’ll see the CI Raider in his ship, pointing off into the distance.  “I wanted him to point into the distance to show others that our dreams are taking us places outside our ‘ship’ so we can reach them- no matter how far away,” explained Alejandra.  Hannah Skercevic, Angela Arroyo, and Yessica Vasquez also helped paint the mural, alongside nearly all of Mr. Cardinez’s AP art students. 

They were led by local artist Gabriel Cardenas, who worked with the students to teach them how to scale their drawings to fit the wall, and all of the techniques required to paint a large mural.  Gabriel is nearly finished with his M.A. in Chicano Studies from Cal State Northridge.  His thesis is “Chicana/o Art Politics: Campesina/o art of Fillmore and Ventura County, California”.  Also a CSUN Professor, his interest in art developed as a young child and began to blossom after a teacher in 6th grade suggested that he enroll in art classes.  He has worked with youth as an arts mentor with the City of Santa Barbara’s Eastside resource center, and taught art muralism skills and connected students to culturally relevant material to aid them in expressing themselves artistically.   

Gabriel believes that art is important in supporting youth development because it “strengthens interpersonal skills, and a sense of identity. I believe art education and mentorship is vital in producing engaged, critical-thinking youth that can develop creative skills to overcome obstacles in their personal and communal lives. In essence, creativity is needed to invent new ways to solve old problems.”

When asked how art can have a larger impact on our community, he explained- “We cannot expect to solve the same issues with the same techniques if those same issues continue to plague those around us. Creativity and visual art practice highlight topics of great concern to the negatively affected individual and/or community.”  

We couldn’t agree more, and look forward to working on more garden murals with students in the future.  Much gratitude to all the creative, talented students at CIHS, Mr. Cardinez for supporting the project, and Gabriel Cardenas for sharing his experience and guiding the project to become a beautiful work of art in our school garden.  

Article by Alicia Villegas, Farm to School Nutrition Specialist




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