Two large-scale murals inside Santa Cruz County Juvenile Hall have brightened the walls of a place where “where the sun doesn’t always shine,” according to a 17-year-old male who is incarcerated there.
Two large-scale murals — one titled “Seek New Visions” and another, “Achieve Higher Education” — were completed by young people incarcerated at the Felton facility with the help of Colorado-based artist Emanuel Martinez.
Scott MacDonald, the Santa Cruz County chief of probation, described the murals in hopeful terms at their unveiling Monday, Oct. 29.
“Within these walls, we try to help young people see a vision for the future,” MacDonald said.
The two-week mural projects were designed by Martinez through the Emanuel Project, which was founded in 2011 by Louisa Craft Jornayvaz to provide an art program to incarcerated young people.
As part of the project, Martinez — who has artwork in the Museum of American Art at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. — traveled from Colorado to Felton for two weeks to complete the murals.
The young inmates painted 80 percent of the two murals, often working throughout the day to complete a 118-foot-by 9.6 foot mural inside the facility and a 40-by-10.6 foot mural in the cafeteria.
“I experienced how it felt to work hard every day,” said Daniel, a youth who was named foreman of the project. “I felt free. It brought color, light and positive encouragement where the sun doesn’t always shine.”
The larger mural in the facility courtyard showed faces, but used the windows along the wall as eyes, and the smaller in the cafeteria showed the globe being lifted up by several hands.
Martinez was exceptionally complimentary of his stay in Santa Cruz and his experience at the juvenile hall, thanking the staff, the Santa Cruz County Office of Education and other nonprofits. He then addressed the young inmates who helped him paint.
“Mistakes are part of the process of life,” said Martinez, who was incarcerated several times as a youth. “When we make mistakes in our paintings, what do we do? We fix it. You guys are full of potential. Discover your talents and start discovering them.”
Sara Ryan, the superintendent of Santa Cruz County Juvenile Hall, described the project as an example of the importance of collaboration to the facility.
“It’s an example of what we do every day,” Ryan said. “The kids were so focused on what they were doing. There was a sense of accomplishment.”
The Emanuel Project has completed 29 murals since 2011, said James “Randy” Minnick, the project’s executive director.