Art Activism in Oakland – A Mural for the Moment
A few students in Oakland recently painted a mural in their neighborhood. To learn more about this project, we talked to student artist Paulina Ramirez, a senior at ARISE High School in Oakland. Read below to learn a little bit about this project and the artist behind it.
Like so many others in her community – and around the world – Paulina and her family witnessed firsthand the chilling effects of the pandemic when the virus spread through her household. “My grandma had to go to the hospital for like two weeks because she couldn’t breathe, and she had gotten pneumonia,” Paulina says. “We felt relieved that we got through it, but at the same time, it made me think of all the people who lost [loved ones].”
This empathy, coupled with a long desire to help her community through art, became a source of inspiration when she heard that buildOn was doing an Art and Social Justice project. She began sketching some ideas for a mural. “I wanted to do a kind of memorial,” Paulina recalls, “but also a snapshot of what it’s like right now for people.”
To help with the project, she enlisted the support of her brother – also an ARISE student and artist who’s interested in creating art with a purpose. Together, with the help of buildOn staff, they begin painting the mural near their home in Oakland.
“I didn’t want it to be just something that looked pretty for people to take pictures with. I wanted it to actually show something from right now.”
“I didn’t want it to be just something that looked pretty for people to take pictures with,” Paulina says. “I wanted it to actually show something from right now.” In addition to reminding people to stay safe as we get through these trying times, Paulina also hopes that it inspires people to stay healthy and safe post-pandemic.
Born and raised in Oakland, Paulina has a lot of love and hope for her city. “I want the stereotype of Oakland being a bad community to change,” Paulina says. When talking about some of the challenges that she sees in her city – stereotyping, environmental racism, violence, high cost of living – she says, “We do have problems here, like within the community, but I don’t think that these problems define us as a whole.”
When asked about her dreams for her community, Paulina gives a simple yet powerful vision, “The only thing I want is for people to feel safe and that they can live a good life here. They don’t have to worry about too much to be able to just live.”
“The only thing I want is for people to feel safe and that they can live a good life here. They don’t have to worry about too much to be able to just live.”
After graduating, Paulina hopes to turn her passion for art into a career. She’s considering studying art education and becoming a high school or middle school art teacher.