Leadership MH class commissions artists who highlight motivational messages

Published in the September 12 – 25, 2018 issue of Morgan Hill Life

The streets of Morgan Hill have been turned into an art gallery thanks to the 2018 Leadership Morgan Hill class project. The class members commissioned local artists to paint murals on 11 utility boxes in various public locations throughout the city.

The Art & Inspiration project was chosen to use the murals to highlight various motivational themes such as “Inspire Change,” “Be Your Own Hero,” “Never Stop Learning,” and “What You Think You Become.” (For a list of the box locations and sponsors, visit MorganHillLife.com.)

Michael Ozuna was in charge of the materials/prep/finish workstream aspect of the project as well as helping to find local businesses and individuals to sponsor the project, which cost about $10,000.

“The benefits to the city of Morgan Hill are that it gives us a sense of community, that we are close knit and that we care about this community. And the social messages may hit the spot just at the right time,” he said.

What Ozuna learned from the Art and Inspiration project is how to build the skills to deal with unexpected issues and problems that arise, and that it up to the entire Leadership Morgan Hill team to pull for each other and not expect anything in return, he said.

“You can make a difference if you really want to,” he said. “If you want to make a difference then make a difference, be the first to volunteer, be the first to speak up, be up to the challenge.”

Class member Daniel Sanidad served in charge of the publicity for the project. One leadership skill he learned was that momentum overcomes obstacles and to remain clear as a team about the vision of the project.

“We kept the overall concept of our project simple, painting utility boxes,” he said. “What allowed us to do something different was how we could present a feeling of community. Our vision was to not only make a difference, moreover, inspire others to do the same.”

Even before the project was completed, residents of all ages purposefully drove or changed their walking route to see the boxes, he said.

Michael Ramoneda served as the project treasurer. He learned leaders need to put faith in the talent and capacity of the community members to create public art that is eye-catching and that residents can appreciate. The project is designed to give a sense of pride in the city and show that people care enough about their community to turn the mundane into something thoughtful, he said.

“It was rather eye-opening to see such extraordinary brilliance and dedication in these people that so constantly serve our neighborhoods,” he said.

Suman Ganapathy served as the class liaison with the Library, Culture, and Arts Commission as well as working with the various artists. The project started in January when the class brainstormed project ideas, she said. Two top themes emerged: city beautification and community service projects.

“When we approached Community Projects Director Chris Ghione on Local Government Day, he suggested connecting with LCAC to take on their languishing utility box project and implement all our ideas,” she said. “We recognized that that was the perfect project for us, and the entire class voted for it.”

The project is much more than just stunning art and beautification of utility boxes, she said. Right from the beginning, the class considered it vital to connect with and benefit the community with powerful, positive, uplifting and thoughtful social messages that showcase the city’s shared values. The artwork/artist group came up with “pithy, positive and thoughtful phrases” that would represent and connect with the community, encourage reflection and be uplifting.


“The group voted for 10 messages at a March workstream meeting and matched them with the locations for maximum impact,” Ganapathy said.  This was shared with the whole class. Applicants were then asked to express these messages in their art.

“Working with the artists has been a joy if laborious process, time-wise,” she said. “They’ve all been different but wonderful. Some needed no help at all artistically and PALs were sufficient, while others benefited with suggestions, and even asked for it. Kudos to the artists for being flexible, open and trusting. Since we were accommodating and supportive too with giving them extra time, helping with set up and take down, and even little treats, the incredible results are plain to see.”

The Art & Inspiration project served as a transformational experience for Ganapathy and others.

“It was gratifying to see how I helped contribute to its success by having a clear vision, stringent standards, flexibility and adaptation to seemingly endless new circumstances, and finding solutions in real time with a never-give-up attitude through challenges and impossible constraints,” she said. “I haven’t always been this driven before, and I now know how to tackle the rest of my life’s goals, as long as I keep a sense of perspective.”


Marty Cheek

Marty Cheek

Publisher at Morgan Hill Life
Marty Cheek is the publisher of Morgan Hill Life and Gilroy Life. He is also the co-author with Congressman Jerry McNerney of the book Clean Energy Nation: Freeing America From the Tyranny of Fossil Fuels.
Email: marty@morganhilllife.com
Phone: (408) 782-7575
Marty Cheek