Holiday Spirit

From left, Jocelyn Hernandez, Alejandro Canche, Mikey Arroyo, Jennifer Mancia and Nathan Jovel stand in front of the large mural displayed in a stairwell at the Ravenswood Health Center in East Palo Alto, which was painted by fellow teens in the East Palo Alto Mural Music & Arts Project. Photo by Veronica Weber.

Posted December 22, 2017

Youth art creates positive impact
Holiday Fund grant provides young East Palo Alto artists tools to foster neighborhood change

by Linda Taaffe

Chances are you've seen the work of the Mural, Music & Arts Project while passing through East Palo Alto. The colorful murals, conceived and painted by youth artists, blanket the city's parks, public buildings and schools. Each painting — depicting current events and themes such as unity and community — is designed to not only beautify the city but also foster positive neighborhood change.

Founded in East Palo Alto in collaboration with the Boys & Girls Club of the Peninsula and the Ravenswood City School District in 2001, the organization began as a summer project to help connect local youth with mentors through art and music programs emphasizing community development and academic achievement. Since then, more than 5,000 youth artists have produced a hundred songs and created 554 public art works installed in East Palo Alto and surrounding communities, as well as San Francisco, San Jose and Los Angeles.

According to East Palo Alto police, the 400 feet of murals the group has installed in the city's parks have helped transform areas once overrun with crime into community gathering places.

The number of recorded gun shots at Jack Farrell Park dropped from 2,400 in 2011 to 630 in 2014 after the group installed a 1,200-square-foot mural there in 2012 as part of the city's Fit Zone Program, Police Chief Albert Pardini told the media in 2015.

"By the end of the (parks beautification) program, we noticed there was a significant reduction in gun violence where the murals went up," said Dany Cesena, director of outreach for the Arts Project. "By coming out ... and working on small arts projects, people were able to reclaim their city. We were super stoked. After the beautification project, people have come out to enjoy the public space."

As for the students, they've been able to acquire the skills and determination to become leaders in their community, he added.

Each summer, the Arts Project hires up to 25 student artists between the ages of 14 and 24 to work in its Teen Mural Program. Some of the youth are referred to the program; others join to fulfill community service hours ordered by a judge. Many are just looking for a fun after-school activity.

All participants go through a 10-week curriculum that weaves reading, writing, math and business skills with color theory, perspective drawing and painting. The students contribute to every stage of a project from voting on the mural's design to priming the walls and painting the mural to planning its installation and holding a public unveiling event. Through constant fundraising and grants — like this year's $5,000 grant from the Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund — the organization is able to pay each student about $1,000, Cesena said.

"A lot of kids in East Palo Alto kind of go through a lot in their lives," Cesena said. "Their families are also dealing with really deep struggles — financial, social, emotional and other. The idea behind the program is to round up kids and have them work on arts projects, get some financial incentive and help them do better in school, as well as learn different kinds of skills that they don't normally get in daily life."

For Nathan Jovel, 18, who joined the Arts Project six years ago after the group visited his middle school, the experience has encouraged him to consider a career in industrial design.

Jovel said he already had an interest in drawing and music and thought the program would be a good way to fulfill community service hours required as part of his school curriculum.

"It was something to do after school and got me away from the house," he said.

What he didn't realize is how much he would get out of the program, he added.

Since working on five murals through the program, Nathan, who now is almost done with high school, said he can see the improvement in his drawing skills. Before, it was difficult to organize all of his ideas on paper, he said.

"I didn't really know how to get started. That was the hardest part," he said.

Now Jovel regularly helps with the group's mural projects from concept to completion.

Students in the Teen Mural Program are currently finishing a 320-foot mural around the exterior perimeter of the Ravenswood Family Health Center on Bay Road. The project depicts healthy family activities — a grandmother reading to her granddaughter, children playing in a park, families dancing and playing music together — in 20 separate panels. Grant money from the Holiday Fund has helped cover the cost of materials and stipends for the 20 student artists creating the project, which includes a 20-page coloring book in several languages for children visiting the health center. The group plans to unveil the project this spring.

Cesena said the organization hopes to continue to expand the arts programs into more areas.

"I really enjoy seeing how much of a difference programs like this can have on people's lives," Cesena said. "People find it difficult to work with troubled youth because, well, they can be hard to work with. But in this program, we can give them a paint brush or a microphone and tell them to create something, and they are more than happy to create and do something positive and something good."

Apply for a Holiday Fund Grant

Nonprofits serving children and families may apply for funds by downloading our Grant Application Guidelines and Grant Application Form. Application deadline: 11:59 p.m. on Friday, January 13, 2023.

Make a donation
2022 Recipient Agency

49ers Academy$10,000

AbilityPath$10,000

Able Works$10,000

Ada's Cafe$25,000

Adolescent Counseling Services$7,500

Art in Action$10,000

Bay Area Friendship Circle$5,000

Beyond Barriers Athletic Foundation$5,000

Big Brothers Big Sisters
of the Bay Area
$10,000

Blossom Birth & Family$5,000

Canopy$5,000

CASA of San Mateo County$5,000

Children's Health Council$10,000

Christmas Bureau of Palo Alto$5,000

Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto$10,000

Counseling and Support Services for Youth - CASSY$15,000

DreamCatchers$15,000

East Palo Alto Academy Foundation$10,000

East Palo Alto Charter School$5,000

East Palo Alto Kids Foundation$15,000

East Palo Alto Tennis and Tutoring$15,000

East Palo Alto YMCA$10,000

Eastside College
Preparatory School
$7,500

EPACENTER$10,000

Family Connections$7,500

Fit Kids Foundation$5,000

Foundation for a
College Education
$10,000

Fresh Approach$10,000

Friends for Youth$5,000

Friends of the Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo$10,000

Heart and Home Collaborative$10,000

Hope Horizon East Palo Alto$7,500

Jasper Ridge Farm$5,000

Kara$15,000

Learning Home Volunteers$10,000

Live In Peace$10,000

Magical Bridge Foundation$10,000

Mannakin Theater & Dance$5,000

Marine Science Institute$5,000

Midpen Media Center$7,500

Music in the Schools Foundation$8,000

My New Red Shoes$5,000

New Voices for Youth$5,000

Pacific Art League of Palo Alto$12,000

Palo Alto Art Center Foundation$10,000

Palo Alto Community Child Care $30,000

Palo Alto Players$10,000

Peer Point$20,000

Peninsula Bridge$10,000

Peninsula College Fund$10,000

Peninsula Healthcare Connection$10,000

Peninsula Volunteers$15,000

Peninsula Youth Theatre$5,000

Pursuit of Excellence Scholarship Foundation$20,000

Ravenswood Classroom Partners$20,000

Ravenswood Education Foundation$10,000

Reading Partners
Silicon Valley
$10,000

ReadySetExcel$5,000

Rebuilding Together Peninsula$7,500

Resource Area for
Teaching (RAFT)
$5,000

Rich May Foundation$5,000

Rise Together Education$10,000

Ronald McDonald House$5,000

Rosalie Rendu Center$5,000

Sager Family Farm$5,000

Silicon Valley
Urban Debate League
$7,500

St. Elizabeth Seton School$10,000

TheatreWorks$5,000

UNAFF (United Nations Association Film Festival)$10,000

WeHOPE$15,000

WomenSV$7,500

Youth Community Service$25,000

Child Care Grants

All Five$10,000

Covenant Children's Center$10,000

Creative Montessori
Learning Center
$10,000

Grace Lutheran Preschool$10,000

Palo Alto Friends Nursery School$10,000

Parents Nursery School$10,000


As of December 7th, 165 donors have contributed $145,397 to the Holiday Fund.
* indicates amount withheld at donor's request

24 Anonymous7,075
Eileen & Rick Brooks1,000
Maureen O'Connor150
Martha Shirk1,200
Jennifer DiBrienza & Jesse Dorogusker1,000
Diane and Brandy Sikic*
Alicia Newman100
Dorsey & Katherine Bass300
Edie Kirkwood1,000
Micri & Bob Cardelli*
George & Betsy Young*
Diana Diamond1,000
Brigid Barton 2,000
Korol Family250
Lawrence R. Yang & Jennifer W. Kuan10,000
Anthony & Susan Wood25,000
Lynn and Andrew Newman*
Katherine Bryant100
Barbara Riper*
Sally & Craig Nordlund500
Carolyn Caddes*
Kroymann Family250
Marian Adams100
Roy & Carol Blitzer*
Elaine Hah1,500
Retired*
Julie & Dan Lythcott-Haims250
Tess & Eric Byler150
Denise and Jeff Simons*
Keith and Linda Clarke*
Harriet Benson10,000
Arthur Keller250
Cynthia Costell100
George & Betsy Bechtel200
Ellen M. Lillington200
Tom & Nancy Fiene200
Tom & Patricia Sanders*
Amado & Deborah Padilla250
Margo Sensenbrenner*
Merele McClure250
Joanne Koltnow400
Christina Kenrick1,000
Richard Johnsson5,000
Xiaofan Lin100
Bonnie and Bryan Street*
Thomas Rindfleisch*
Jody Maxmin*
Diane and Joe Rolfe*
Diane Finkelstein250
Linda & Steve Boxer*
David & Betsy Fryberger400
Jan Aarts*
Judith Appleby300
Donald Barr150
Charles & Barbara Stevens*
Edward Kanazawa300
Karen A. Latchford*
Kingsley Jack250
Richard Zuanich150
Patti Yanklowitz and Mark Krasnow100
Denise Savoie and Darrell Duffie*
Elizabeth Salzer & Richard Baumbartner*
Marcia & Michael Katz200
Scott and Jan Kilner500
Dorothy Saxe100
Kieschnick family1,000
Barbara Klein*
Dorothy Deringer200
Art and Peggy Stauffer500
Ed & Linda DeMeo500
Penny & Greg Gallo500
Scottie Zimmerman100
Fran Codispoti250
Ted & Ginny Chu*
The Dong Family200
Bill Reller*
Harry E & Susan B Hartzell100
Ann Burrell & Charles Smith*
Janis Ulevich*
Theradep Technologies500
Jack and Susan Thomas*
Julie and Jon Jerome*
Andrea B. Smith100
Leif and Sharon Erickson500
The Havern Family5,000
Gwen Luce and Family*
Bruce Campbell*
Freddy & Jan Gabus250
Richard & Pat Douglas50
Susan & Doug Woodman150
Donald Price*
Judy Ousterhout*
Judy Kramer*
Kingston Duffie & Elizabeth Schwerer500
Roger & Joan Warnke300
Jerry & Bobbie Wagger*
John Keller100
Mahlon & Carol Hubenthal*
Margaret Forsyth and Glenn Rennels*
Charlotte Johansen200
Leo & Marlys Keoshian250
Donna Silverberg100
Paul & Jane Millman250
In Memory Of

Walter Dean*
Er-Ying and Y.C. Yen250
Jack Sutorius750
Michele Wilson*
Bob Donald350
Leonard Ware*
Robert Spinrad100
August King*
Bob Simoni500
David W. Mitchell*
Paul Seaver*
Gerald Berner300
Ian Halliday250
Ray Bacchetti300
Marie and Don Snow200
Andre Jones *
Jim and Dottie Mellberg*
Ruth & Chet Johnson*
David Sager100
Ted Linden200
Lily & Philip Gottheiner150
Chet Brown*
Phil Zschokke200
Nellie Perna Bartello100
Bob Donald*
Steven T. Ross100
In Honor Of

Marilyn Sutorius750
Darla Tupper3,922
Leo & Sylvia Breidenbach and Thomas & Louise Phinney1,000
Polly Caddes*
Joe Simitian*
Gabby Perez & Logan Marsh250
Dr Ron Radzilowski*
Businesses & Organizations

Angelo Family Foundation 5,000
Palo Alto Business Park*
Hearts & Minds Activity Center75
Alta Mesa Cemetery & Funeral Home2,500
Peery Foundation10,000
Arrillaga Foundation10,000

Past Holiday Fund Grant Recipients

2018-2019 | 2017-2018 | 2016-2017 | 2015-2016 | 2014-2015 | 2013-2014 | 2012-2013 | 2011-2012 | 2010-2011 | 2009-2010 | 2008-2009 | 2007-2008 | 2006-2007 | 2005-2006 | 2004-2005 | 2003-2004 | 2002-2003 | 2001-2002 | 2000-2001 | 1999-2000