Louie Kee Market Mural: Young Artist Reflects On How She Helped Make Fresno A Better Place

[box_light]“Let’s make Fresno a better place” is the theme for a new youth mural that stretches across the length of the historic Louie Kee Market, unveiled this past weekend[/box_light]

On Saturday, December 4, 2010, people from all over Fresno came to see the final result of a long awaited mural. The new mural, painted by a group of talented youth, graced the side walls of Louie Kee Market at Tulare and B Street, a family-owned business with more than 87 years of history and service to the residents of West Fresno. Supporters and people in the neighborhood gathered to celebrate the new change in their community – many were proud of the result.

As a member of the youth mural team, I arrived early to help set up and make other preparations. The sky was heavy with clouds, and many of my fellow painters worried that the turnout would be less than spectacular.

Carefully, we opened canopies, hung banners, and prepped ourselves for possible interviews in the coming hours. To shake off some tension, some of us listened to music, or walked the length of the wall, reflecting upon what we had done. Our time to shine was coming soon.

By 1 pm, the sun began peaking through the clouds and the sidewalk was filling up with friends, family, supporters and people from the neighborhood. Hip-hop was blaring through a stereo and smoke from the barbeque was already going up. It turns out that we had over 130 people come to celebrate.

The event opened with Mai Der Vang of The Know Youth Media giving a warm welcome to all who came, followed by a few words from Josue Rojas, the creative director of the project. He explained how happy he was to participate in the completion of Fresno’s new youth-driven mural. “I’m so honored to be a part of this,” said Josue.

Youth from various groups, such as The Know Youth Media, Youth For Christ, and The Muralistics participated in the mural planning and painting. Together, we worked to make a mural in West Fresno to show the community that Fresno is capable of being a safer, happier, and healthier place for its residents.

The planning for the mural started in August, and was made a reality by October. The project was funded by Building Healthy Communities, an initiative of The California Endowment, and Senior Program Officer, Sarah Reyes, also attended the event. “I think this mural will inspire other communities”, she said in a one-on-one interview with The Know. “I think Fresno is going to be proud that there are young people doing this for their community.”

Store owner, Kevin Louie, also extended his thanks to the community and noted that the mural has attracted numerous people driving by who like to get off and take pictures.

Members of the youth mural team were honored with certificates. After posing for a few pictures, one of the children who volunteered came up to say a few words. “It’s awesome”, he said.

Miguel Bibanco and Miriam Hernandez from the Youth Engagement Team of Building Healthy Communities also challenged incoming City Councilmember for District 3 Oliver Baines to commit to a meeting with young people from the community to help make it a better place. “I accept,” said Mr. Baines, as everyone applauded.

As the event was coming to a close, members of the mural team scattered themselves throughout the mural to speak in detail about the area they helped create, and what it represents, such as the dragon on one side reflecting the Chinese heritage of the storeowners, or the teardrop on the other side representing the pain of youth incarceration.

As people gathered around, I gave everyone a walk-through of my center figures, which was a group of youth standing proudly in the painting. People gazed in awe as I was asked many questions. At one point while my portfolio was being shown, some people even wanted to purchase my art.

If it weren’t for participating in the mural project, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to sell my art. This mural project was a great starting point for me and my fellow painters’ careers, if we all choose to keep up in the field of art.

At the very end, our supporters were awarded with a round of applause. To end with a bang, people lined up for the barbeque. I was both surprised and thankful for all the support my team members and I received.

I know this mural is a start in improving the community. Through participating in this project, I have helped make Fresno a better place.

To view more photos of the mural production process,
visit The kNOw’s page on Facebook:www.facebook.com/theknowfresno

Photos by April Hoogasian, The Know Youth Media, and Robert Rodriguez

The kNOw Youth Media
The kNOw works to support and equip young people with the journalism and advocacy skills they need to tell their stories and the stories of their communities.

In 2006, over 25 youth began participating in weekly after-school writing workshops where they congregated in the hallway of a two-story building in West Fresno and learned the essentials of creating media and telling their stories. The group evolved over the next five years and is now proudly recognized as The kNOw Youth Media.

Through our program, we create opportunities for our youth participants, who in turn create long-term positive change in their communities. Our approach weaves youth development and youth media innovation to produce our biannual youth publication, multimedia projects, and community forums.

The kNOw began as a project of New America Media, which was the country’s first and largest national collaboration and advocate of 2000 ethnic news organizations. In 2018 The kNOw became a project of Youth Leadership Institute.

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