Contributing to Neighborhood Pride

"Promoting peace, hope, and love is part of MCC's work, and we are excited to share that with the community through the arts"

A mural of a child playing soccer. There are also birds taking flight.

"Si vas a soñar, sueña que es posible" (If you are going to dream, dream that it is possible) is the title of the new mural in Calwa park, a disadvantaged Latino community in southeast Fresno, California.

West Coast Mennonite Central Committee (WC MCC) community artist and educator, Cynthia Velazquez, and four Chapel Hill Moorehead Cain Scholars created the mural of a young Latino boy bouncing a soccer ball as part of a public art initiative in Fresno.  

Velazquez's inspiration came from observing how passionate the kids in Calwa park are about sports. She hoped to represent their dreams and the whole community by creating this art piece.

"The mural was created to inspire kids to dream through patterns and colors. We hope they can notice the beauty in God's creation and within ourselves. The birds represent the responsibility we have been granted as administrators of earth and for us to reconcile our dreams back to our creator," said Velazquez.

The city of Fresno supported the creation of the mural to engage and encourage Fresno's community and young people.  

Part of WC MCC's mission is to restore justice and bring peace and reconciliation in the name of Christ. This project allowed MCC to come together with city and community leaders to work toward the greater good of the community.

"Promoting peace, hope, and love is part of MCC's work, and we are excited to share that with the community through the arts," said WC MCC's Executive Director, Dina Gonzalez-Piña.

Before North Carolina, Chapel Hill students Sarah Chocron, David Nicholson, Elizah Van Lokeren, and Asher Wexler took the idea to city officials they met with several community organizations, church groups, and high schoolers to discuss the negative narrative surrounding Fresno, one of the organizations being WC MCC. Using the information the students gathered, they decided to contribute to a positive narrative through public art.

The Moorehead Cain scholarship program allows students to collaborate with city entities and governments to address civic issues as part of their enrichment program. The students took their idea to  Deputy Mayor Matthew Grundy and the Office of Community Affairs, who helped them implement it.

"Part of my vision for Fresno is an inclusive prosperous, beautiful city, where people take pride in their neighborhood and community; one way to do that is through public art, a movement to tell the story and history of where we live," said Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer in a July press conference.

Velazquez said she was honored to be part of the process, especially encouraging the students to learn and understand more about the community's cultural identity and values.

"We left Calwa considering and respecting the grounds belonging to this community and leaving behind a beautiful footprint that will continue to speak to those who come across it," she said.

Calwa Park Administrative Director Adam Ramos agreed this mural would be beneficial not only to Calwa but to other communities in the area.

The completion of the project shows the commitment and solidarity of Calwa Park achieving its goal of what a park should be., he said.  

"To the people of Calwa, this is for you. We will never forget who we are, and it is an honor to receive this mural on their behalf," said Ramos.