In the latest Around Town column, news about a community art project that drew 600 participants, and a state association recognizing East Palo Alto's city clerk.
JUST BREATHE ... The act of breathing brought the community together at Gunn High School last week for "Breathe with Me," an international art project launched at the United Nations Headquarters during the 2019 Youth Climate Action Summit.
Participants at the Gunn event were provided a paintbrush and asked to paint their breath by making a stroke on a canvas while exhaling, according to Jen Schultz, vice president of communications for the Gunn PTSA. "It looks pretty breathtaking," said Schultz, who recommended people view the work at sunrise or sunset. Each participant was asked to paint two strokes in ultramarine blue.
About 600 people, from preschoolers to nonagenarians, participated in the three-day effort that began April 22 in conjunction with Earth Day. Mayor Tom DuBois, Board of Education members and documentary filmmaker Steven Schecter to capture the project were also in attendance.
The canvases were later lined up side by side to form an art display that stretches 350 feet around the Gunn soccer field.
The idea for the local project started with Svetlana Gous, who found a "twofold" meaning in the project. For her, the strokes are like a social contract, with the first being for one's one wellness and the second for the environment, both locally and globally.
The group was faced with strong gusts and clipped down the canvases to keep them from flying away. "It was really like a sailing trip," Gous said.
At the end of the day, the project was "a tribute to our community, and to highlight the community spirit rather than individual achievement," she said.
Student volunteers cleaned up the area ahead of the event, said sophomore Wyatt Pederson, service leader for Gunn's Youth Community Service club. "I felt more unified with the community through this project," he said. Sophomore Katie Rueff, outreach coordinator for Gunn's Green Team, said she enjoyed seeing people talk about the importance of breathing and reconnecting with the community given the challenges from the past year. Rueff also enjoyed the opportunity to interview the creator of the "Breathe with Me" project, Danish artist Jeppe Hein, during a Gunn Together event in March.
The project is on display for public viewing through the end of the school year, after which time, the canvases will be removed and repurposed for art students at Gunn, Paly, Stanford University and Santa Clara University.
In addition to painting, there were stations where participants could contribute to a poetry tree by writing on tags and self-reflect on a large index card or canvas, organizers said.
The event was organized by Gunn students, staff and parents, with support from Neighbors Abroad and the Barron Park Neighborhood Association. A short film and more information about the local project can be found at gunnsec.org.
'A GREAT HONOR' ... East Palo Alto City Clerk Walfred Solorzano was recognized by the City Clerks Association of California with the 2021 Special Award of Distinction for Communications, Organization and Administration.
"Walfred has made great strides in modernizing the City Clerk's Office and helping the entire organization," City Manager Jaime Fontes said in an April 23 statement. "The fact that Walfred was able to perform and accomplish so many things as a new City Clerk in the middle of a pandemic makes him deserving of such a great honor."
The past year has certainly been busy for Solorzano, who was credited with creating a new city website; partnering with organizations during election season, which resulted in a record turnout; overhauling the city's communications and outreach efforts; and helping San Mateo County in bringing free Wi-Fi to two parks and multiple areas of the city. He was also the driving force behind pushing out a new agenda system for the City Council and commissions and launched a digitization project that goes back to the city's 1983 incorporation.
SPREAD POSITIVE VIBES ... As the coronavirus crisis continues to unfold at home and around the world, we want to share positive stories from our readers for upcoming Around Town columns. Have you witnessed a random act of kindness or watched the community form bonds while maintaining a safe social distance? Or have you seen a creative project come about as many stay at home? Send us your story in 250 words or fewer by email to [email protected] Photos are also welcome. We look forward to hearing your stories!